January 7, 2011 (CatholicAnchor) - Tweeting and texting, the Echo Boomers are taking the reins of the decades-long effort to restore legal protection to the unborn in Alaska and across the U.S.
These 20-somethings – children of Baby Boomers and Generation Xers – were born and raised after the 1973 Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade. They are survivors of the era of legalized abortion in America. But a full third of their generation did not survive – 26 million of their brothers, sisters and friends have been aborted.
For those who made it, like 28-year-old Christine Kurka of Eagle River, Alaska and 22-year-old Windy Thomas of Anchorage, the abortion debate is about human rights – rights they believe should be equally applied to all members of the human family, including the very youngest.
At age 18, Kurka was motivated to speak up for the unborn. Her awakening came during a visit to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., where she heard recordings of the Nuremberg trials. She understood that apathy, silence and the deflection of responsibility were no defense in the face of evil.
“If we say nothing, we are acquiescing,” Kurka told the Catholic Anchor in a recent interview.
Kurka began to see a correlation between the destruction of the Jewish people behind the walls of concentration camps and abortion.
“It’s a quiet thing, people don’t see it,” she explained.
She realized “it wasn’t going to be enough to just personally stay away from abortion or not to have one myself. I was going to have to be actively speaking and doing something.”
As the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade approaches on Jan. 22, the faces and voices of the pro-life movement are changing. But in terms of political action, charity towards mothers and babies and efforts to educate the public on the facts of prenatal life, Kurka’s generation is following a well-proved path.
While a growing number of Alaska’s pro-life activists aren’t out of their 20s, they have four decades of experience behind them.
Anchorage Catholic Pam Albrecht has been at the forefront of the abortion debate since 1969, when Planned Parenthood first lobbied Alaska’s legislators to legalize abortion. With help from local attorneys Wayne Ross and Bob Flint, Albrecht produced flyers opposing the legalization and urged Alaskans to write their legislators.
However, the legislation passed, and in 1972 Alaska amended its constitution to become one of the first states to explicitly recognize a so-called right to “privacy,” interpreted by some to mean a right to abortion on demand.
Meanwhile, Albrecht began to appreciate how women were being pressured into abortion.
“I could see this problem was more than just ‘this baby’,” said soft-spoken Albrecht.
So she and fellow Catholic Kim Syren founded Birthright – to help expectant mothers in crisis choose life for their babies by providing friendship and material support, like housing and clothing.
Eventually, Birthright was folded into Catholic Social Services’ Pregnancy Support program. And Albrecht continues on with Project Rachel, helping mothers suffering after abortion.
Mirroring the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, other early pro-life advocates took the abortion debate to Anchorage clinic doors in the 1980s. Local pro-lifers organized peaceful sit-ins to slow the abortion business in Anchorage and raise awareness of what was going on inside. Ninety-two people joined the first sit-in, making it the largest civil disobedience event in the history of Alaska. A photo of the arrest of Jesuit Father George Endal, in his 80s at the time, made the front page of the Anchorage Times.
On the sidewalks were “sidewalk counselors,” pro-lifers specially trained to engage with the abortion-minded and help them find life-affirming options.
Still, today, members of the Legion of Mary, a Catholic lay apostolate, continue to pray on the sidewalks several times a week and offer help to women outside Alaska Women’s Health, P.C. – an abortion facility on Lake Otis Parkway.
Most young adults are pro-life
Thirty years later, in an age where the term “partial-birth abortion” is familiar and where prenatal ultrasounds are commonplace, the American people — including young adults — are increasingly pro-life.
A 2010 Marist College poll showed that nearly 60 percent of the nation’s 18-to-29-year-olds consider abortion morally wrong. Just 20 percent of that group thinks abortion is morally acceptable.
Thousands of pro-life young adults demonstrate against Roe v. Wade in the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. Their numbers impress even Nancy Keenan, president of the pro-abortion advocacy group NARAL, who in Newsweek Magazine observed, “There are so many of them, and they are so young.”
These youth are founding and running groups like Live Action, the undercover investigative group that films exposés on Planned Parenthood, the nation’s billion-dollar abortion business. Its now famous director Lila Rose, who delivered the keynote address for this past November’s Alaska Right to Life fund-raiser, is just 22 years old.
There are Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust; Medical Students for Life; and Stop the Abortion Mandate Coalition, a national coalition organized to stop government funding of abortion in health care.
In Anchorage, Christine Kurka initiated a local chapter of 40 Days for Life. The campaign is a biannual, international event in which participants stand vigil in front of abortion clinics across the country and pray and fast for the end to abortion. Since its 2007 start, the group’s headquarters reports 3,592 unborn babies saved from abortion as a result.
Kurka also is volunteer coordinator for Alaska Right to Life. She organizes the group’s activities at the Alaska State Fair and its annual fund-raiser. And she has been on the board, which consists mostly of young adults, including her 23-year-old brother Christopher.
Changing hearts and minds
Kurka appreciates the courage and devotion of her pro-life predecessors. And she agrees that a presence outside abortion clinics keeps the focus on “real issues.”
“Yeah, there are some issues of law,” she said, “but there’s also an issue of people’s hearts – everybody who’s driving by, the people who are working in the clinics, the women who are potentially seeking abortions, the rest of society that condones it or pressures them to have abortions.”
Kurka believes praying and counseling outside the abortion facilities is “very effective at bringing people together to really focus on what’s true — that human life is valuable and it’s valuable because we’re created in the image of God — and we need to express that in our community.”
Education is a critical part of the process, believes 22-year-old Windy Thomas. She helped found the student pro-life group at University of Alaska, Anchorage, and she is currently the communications director at Alaska Right to Life.
Thomas takes a lesson from Martin Luther King Jr.
African Americans had been “tortured and killed and treated so terribly,” said Thomas. “The (Civil Rights) movement just brought it out into the open and showed people, ‘This is how it is. This is not okay.’”
Thomas believes she has a responsibility to do the same for the unborn. “Twenty or thirty years ago, we didn’t have the scientific evidence that we have now,” she said. Sharing the facts about prenatal development — that each unborn baby, from the moment of conception, is distinct and irreplaceable — is essential, she believes.
“This battle is going to be won in people’s hearts first, but people really have to believe abortion is murder. People really have to see it as it really is.”
Education can be a long process. But in the meantime – and facing 1.2 million abortions in the U.S. each year – Thomas is confident.
“You can really make a huge difference if you just, like, speak up,” she said. “And if you’re faithful and dedicated, you can change the world.”
This article first appeared in the Catholic Anchor. It is reprinted here with permission.