John Jalsevac

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Hundreds of pro-life student groups sweeping across U.S. college campuses

John Jalsevac
John Jalsevac
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December 9, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In 1996 a sobering Gallup Poll was released that confirmed what many pro-life activists already suspected, but nevertheless hoped wasn’t true: while 47% of women said they were pro-life when they entered college, by graduation, a whopping 73% said they were now pro-choice. 

Frighteningly, the pro-life movement was losing 26% of all female students who went through a university program. Clearly, if the movement had any hope of survival in the long run, more needed to be done to reach out to students. 

At that time there already existed a group whose mission was to create a pro-life presence on campuses - American Collegians for Life. But without a full-time staff, and without a significant source of funding, there was only so much that the Collegians for Life, which was entirely student-run, could do. 

In 2006, all of that changed. In that year American Collegians for Life received a sizable start-up grant, changed its name to Students for Life of America (SFLA), hired a professional staff, opened its first national headquarters in Arlington, VA, and launched its historic Pro-Life Field Program.

Since then, Students for Life has gone on to become one of the most active, and most successful, pro-life organizations in the country. 

Meet SFLA executive director Kristan Hawkins

In fact, says Kristan Hawkins, SFLA’s first executive director, their organization has been so successful in founding pro-life student groups, that they have far surpassed anti-life organizations in establishing a campus presence. When Students for Life launched in 2006, there were only about 180 pro-life college student groups in the whole of the United States. Now there are over 500, and more are being added every day. 

Amazingly, Hawkins was handed the helm of the newly-minted national pro-life organization at the tender age of 21. She describes the process of getting SFLA off the ground as being akin to starting up a small business – interviewing and hiring staff, opening an office, doing the accounting, and developing all of SFLA’s programs from the ground up.

She describes that time as “really exciting,” but jokes that, “had I known how much work it was going to be, I probably would have given it a second thought instead of immediately saying, ‘Yes, I’ll take it!’” And for her, things have only gotten busier over the years, now that she is married and has two children.

But, she says, the hard work has clearly paid off. In the past five years, SFLA has grown to ten full-time and 2 part-time staff. Every year SFLA hosts a conference in Washington to coincide with the annual March for Life – this year they are expecting a record-breaking 1800 youth attendees, making it “the largest pro-life youth conference in the world.”

And then, of course, there is the core of SFLA’s outreach - those 530-plus SFLA-affiliated pro-life campus groups. That might sound like a lot, but for Hawkins it’s only the beginning – the goal is to reach at least 1,000. 

It’s all part of an effort to build up what she terms a “critical mass,” in preparation for the day when Roe v. Wade is overturned.

She points out that, “when that glorious day comes,” there will be 50 statewide battles in the United States over abortion that will “need trained activists in the states.” Hawkins hopes these activists will be SFLA alumni.

“They’ve been trained, they know exactly what works and what doesn’t work,” she says. “They’re already ready. They’re on the ground, they’re in the states.”

Campuses: Ground Zero of the abortion fight

Hawkins argues that an organization that focuses exclusively on students, and especially college campuses, is crucial because “this is where these girls are having the abortions, this is where Planned Parenthood is targeting for new business, and this is where hearts and minds are being changed.”

The power of SFLA’s presence was illustrated in an amazing way just this week. Steve Macias, one of SFLA’s field agents, was on the campus of Sacramento City College gathering information when he went up to a passing student and asked her what she knew about abortion. She turned to him in amazement and asked how he “knew.”

When he assured her that he knew nothing at all about her, she explained that she was being pressured by her boyfriend to abort their unborn child, even though she knew abortion was wrong.  Thankfully, Steve was able to put the girl in touch with a local pregnancy resource center and put her on the path to saving the life of her child.

But it isn’t always that easy. SFLA has found over the years that their deadliest enemy isn’t necessarily pro-abortion activists, but rather, “apathy.” 

Hawkins says her field agents frequently encounter students who say they are pro-life, “but are unwilling to take a stand.” She attributes this to the fact that students are “inundated with so much information and media” that they begin to grow numb. “It’s funny, because even now you’ll show people a graphic image of an aborted baby, and we have some people who’ll just look right at it and walk the other way. It doesn’t really affect them,” she said.

Pro-life 2.0

Nevertheless, Hawkins says she holds a great deal of hope for the future: increasingly, she says, “this generation sees abortion as a human rights issue.” Part of this is thanks to pro-life parents, raising children who understand the value of human life. Part is thanks to advances in technology. 

“You’ve got 3D and 4D ultrasounds now, something we’ve never had before in previous generations - where a girl can go to Google, type in abortion and see that baby in the womb,” said Hawkins.  These technologies are educating students “about what is life, and they’re showing these students that there’s unborn life in that womb.”

Hawkins is convinced that right now “the momentum is on our side.”

For veteran pro-life activists, organizations like SFLA are the answer to their most earnest prayers. No longer do they need to worry about whether or not there will be anyone to fill their shoes when they are gone. Thanks to SFLA, and other similar organizations, there is a whole new generation of smart, savvy, devoted, and energetic pro-life activists. 

And they are striking fear into the heart of the old guard of the pro-abortion movement. When Nancy Keenan of NARAL, one of America’s top pro-abort organizations, stumbled on the March for Life in Washington last January, she told Newsweek: “I just thought, my gosh, they are so young … There are so many of them, and they are so young.”

SFLA is at the forefront in pioneering techniques that allow them to reach out directly to this new generation of pro-life warriors. “We use a lot of social media,” Hawkins explains. “I think we were one of the first pro-life organization back in ’06 to utilize the power of Facebook to find pro-life students, or students who we think should identify with the pro-life message.” 

The SFLA website is also one of the most cutting edge in the pro-life movement – packed with well-organized, crisply presented information. 

You could call it pro-life 2.0.

But at the same time, says Hawkins, there is no replacement for the tried and true methods of boots-to-the-ground outreach. 

“You can do a lot via the Internet. You can do a lot via referrals and e-mail and calls,” she says. “But really a lot of grunt work comes down to hitting the pavement, being there in person, right on the campus meeting the students. I think that that’s actually one of the most critical things that you have to do. Students are swamped with messages, e-mails, text message. Getting out and personally meeting these students, I think that’s the best thing that you can do.”

And this is exactly what Students for Life of America does best.

To those pro-life students who feel alienated on their college campus, she says, “don’t be discouraged.”

“We are the majority. National polls are telling this,” said Hawkins. But for those students who don’t believe her, she encourages them to come to the SFLA conference in Washington in January, “where I’m sure every single student will leave knowing that we are the majority and that we will be victorious.”

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Lisa Bourne

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Pressure mounts as Catholic Relief Services fails to act on VP in gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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Rick Estridge, Catholic Relief Services' Vice President of Overseas Finance, is in a same-sex "marriage," public records show. Twitter

BALTIMORE, MD, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Nearly a week after news broke that a Catholic Relief Services vice president had contracted a homosexual “marriage” while also publicly promoting homosexuality on social media in conflict with Church teaching, the US Bishops international relief agency has taken no apparent steps to address the matter and is also not talking.

CRS Vice President of Overseas Finance Rick Estridge entered into a homosexual “marriage” in Maryland the same month in 2013 that he was promoted by CRS to vice president, public records show.

Despite repeated efforts at a response, CRS has not acknowledged LifeSiteNews’ inquiries during the week. And the agency told ChurchMilitant.com Thursday that no action had been taken beyond discussion of the situation and CRS would have no further comment.

"Nothing has changed,” CRS Senior Manager for Communications Tom said. “No further statement will be made."

LifeSiteNews first contacted CRS for a response prior to the April 20 release of the report and did not receive a reply, however Estridge’s Facebook and LinkeIn profiles were then removed just prior to the report’s release.

CRS also did not acknowledge LifeSiteNews’ follow-up inquiry later in the week.

“Having an executive who publicly celebrates a moral abomination shows the ineffectiveness of CRS' Catholic identity training,” Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn told LifeSiteNews. “How many others who hate Catholic moral teaching work at CRS?”

CRS did admit it was aware Estridge was in a “same-sex civil marriage” to Catholic News Agency (CNA) Monday afternoon, and confirmed he was VP of Overseas Finance and had been with CRS for 16 years.

“At this point we are in deliberations on this matter,” Price told CNA that day.

ChurchMilitant.com also reported that according to its sources, it was a well-known fact at CRS headquarters in Baltimore that Estridge was in a homosexual “marriage.” 

“There is no way CRS didn't know one of its executives entered into a mock-marriage until we broke the story,” Hichborn said. “The implication is clear; CRS top brass had no problem with having an executive so deliberately flouting Catholic moral teaching.”

“The big question is,” Hichborn continued, “what other morally repugnant matters is CRS comfortable with?”

While the wait continues for the Bishops’ relief organization to address the matter, those behind the report and other critics of prior instances of CRS involvement in programs and groups that violate Church principles continue to call for a thorough and independent review of the agency programs and personnel.

“How long should it take to call an employee into your office, tell him that his behavior is incompatible with the mission of the organization, and ask for his resignation?” asked Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher. “About thirty minutes, I would say.”

“The Catholic identity of CRS is at stake,” Hichborn stated. “If CRS does nothing, then there is no way faithful Catholics can trust the integrity of CRS's programs or desire to make its Catholicity preeminent.” 

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Thousands of marriage activists gathered in D.C. June 19, 2014 for the 2nd March for Marriage. Dustin Siggins / LifeSiteNews.com
The Editors

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Watch the March for Marriage online—only at LifeSiteNews

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- At noon on Saturday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and dozens of cosponsors, coalition partners, and speakers will launch the third annual March for Marriage. Thousands of people are expected to take place in this important event to show the support real marriage has among the American people.

As the sole media sponsor of the March, LifeSiteNews is proud to exclusively livestream the March. Click here to see the rally at noon Eastern Time near the U.S. Capitol, and the March to the Supreme Court at 1:00 Eastern Time.

And don't forget to pray that God's Will is done on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court hears arguments about marriage!

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Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben

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Hillary Clinton: ‘Religious beliefs’ against abortion ‘have to be changed’

Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben
By Ben Johnson

NEW YORK CITY, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Speaking to an influential gathering in New York City on Thursday, Hillary Clinton declared that “religious beliefs” that condemn "reproductive rights," “have to be changed.”

“Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health,” Hillary told the Women in the World Summit yesterday.

Liberal politicians use “reproductive health” as a blanket term that includes abortion. However, Hillary's reference echoes National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill's op-ed from last May that called abortion “an essential measure to prevent the heartbreak of infant mortality.”

The Democratic presidential hopeful added that governments should throw the power of state coercion behind the effort to redefine traditional religious dogmas.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will,” she said. “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”

The line received rousing applause at the feminist conference, hosted in Manhattan's Lincoln Center by Tina Brown.

She also cited religious-based objections to the HHS mandate, funding Planned Parenthood, and the homosexual and transgender agenda as obstacles that the government must defeat.

“America moves ahead when all women are guaranteed the right to make their own health care choices, not when those choices are taken away by an employer like Hobby Lobby,” she said. The Supreme Court ruled last year that closely held corporations had the right to opt out of the provision of ObamaCare requiring them to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization to employees with no co-pay – a mandate that violates the teachings of the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies.

Clinton lamented that “there are those who offer themselves as leaders...who would defund the country's leading provider of family planning,” Planned Parenthood, “and want to let health insurance companies once again charge women just because of our gender.”

“We move forward when gay and transgender women are embraced...not fired from good jobs because of who they love or who they are,” she added.

It is not the first time the former first lady had said that liberal social policies should displace religious views. In a December 2011 speech in Geneva, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said perhaps the “most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens.” These objections, she said, are “not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation.”

While opinions on homosexuality are “still evolving,” in time “we came to learn that no [religious] practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.”

Her views, if outside the American political mainstream, have been supported by the United Nations. The UN Population Fund stated in its 2012 annual report that religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs had to be overcome. According to the UNFPA report, “‘duty-bearers’ (governments and others)” have a responsibility to assure that all forms of contraception – including sterilization and abortion-inducing ‘emergency contraception’ – are viewed as acceptable – “But if they are not acceptable for cultural, religious or other reasons, they will not be used.”

Two years later, the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child instructed the Vatican last February that the Catholic Church should amend canon law “relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services may be permitted.”

At Thursday's speech, Hillary called the legal, state-enforced implementation of feminist politics “the great unfinished business of the 21st century,” which must be accomplished “not just for women but for everyone — and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”

“These are not just women's fights. These have to be America's fights and the world's fights,” she said. “There's still much to be done in our own country, much more to be done around the world, but I'm confident and optimistic that if we get to work, we will get it done together.”

American critics called Clinton's suggestion that a nation founded upon freedom of religion begin using state force to change religious practices unprecedented.

“Never before have we seen a presidential candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion,” said Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

“In one sense, this shows just how extreme the pro-abortion caucus actually is,” Ed Morrissey writes at HotAir.com. “Running for president on the basis of promising to use the power of government to change 'deep seated cultural codes [and] religious beliefs' might be the most honest progressive slogan in history.”

He hoped that, now that she had called for governments to change religious doctrines, “voters will now see the real Hillary Clinton, the one who dismisses their faith just the same as Obama did, and this time publicly rather than in a private fundraiser.”

Donohue asked Hillary “to take the next step and tell us exactly what she plans to do about delivering on her pledge. Not only would practicing Catholics like to know, so would Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and all those who value life from conception to natural death.”

You may watch Hillary's speech below.

Her comments on religion begin at approximately 9:00. 

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