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Tiny pro-life activist making big waves

John Jalsevac John Jalsevac Follow John

December 20, 2010 ( – When 12-year-old Lia Mills decided to tackle the topic of abortion for a grade 7 speech project in February 2009, neither she nor her family had any idea what lay in store for them.

Now, less than two years later, a homemade video of Lia’s speech, shot with their tiny digital point-and-shoot, has been watched over a million times on Youtube, at least one unborn baby has been saved from abortion, Lia has spoken before a crowd of over 10,000 pro-lifers at the National March for Life in Ottawa, and she is viewed as one of North America’s most promising up-and-coming young pro-life leaders.

“Never in our wildest dreams” did the Mills see what was coming, said Kimberley Mills, Lia’s mother, in a recent interview.  “This could only have been a God-thing because it’s so unbelievable.  Lia made a simple decision to speak on a topic she felt God prompted her to speak on and He took it from there.”

Against the odds

The last two years appear all the more remarkable in light of their inauspicious beginning – when Lia’s pro-abortion teacher found out the topic of her speech, she told Lia that she could present her speech to her class, but would be automatically disqualified from the speech competition attached to the project. She recommended that Lia choose a different topic.

At the recent International Pro-Life Conference in Ottawa, Lia told the crowd that being “a fairly competitive person,” she was eager to participate in the competition; however,  “after more praying and thinking” she decided that she would stick with the topic of abortion anyway, even if it meant disqualification.

Unexpectedly, however, Lia’s teacher was so impressed with the speech that she backtracked and, despite her pro-abortion views, recommended that Lia represent her class in the schoolwide competition. 

But before Lia had a chance to go before the school and the panel of judges, her teacher demanded that she remove one sentence from the speech that referenced God. Once again Lia was forced to choose between her principles and her desire to compete, and possibly win – and once again, she chose the former. “After a night of tears and prayer, I went to school, and sadly told my teacher that I couldn’t take that sentence out and that I would withdraw from the contest,” she says.

But once again her teacher changed her mind, and allowed Lia to compete anyway. 

At the schoolwide competition, one pro-abortion judge stepped down from the panel before Lia even began.  And after the speech, the judges initially told Lia she had been disqualified.  But controversy among the judges eventually led to a reversal, and Lia’s family learned the next day that Lia had been declared the winner.

But, as it turned out, this welcome and hard-won victory was only the beginning for Lia.

Not your typical young activist

When the young pro-life orator, who is now 14 years old, steps up to the microphone, you hardly know what to expect. At best, one looks for the normal fare of the precocious young activist – that is, a cute, but ultimately unoriginal parroting of the movement’s talking points.

Not so with Lia.  At the conference in Ottawa, Lia could barely see over the podium. But when she opened her mouth what poured out was a confident, well-structured, fluid and insightful look into the nature and struggles of the pro-life battle – a speech that stood on its own two feet, without any apologetic remarks about “her age.” Lia had written out her speech beforehand – but barely glanced at her notes the whole time she delivered it. 

(Read the complete prepared text of the speech here.)

“What I realize now,” she told the crowd, “is that when I made the decision to speak on abortion, it wasn’t just a decision to do a speech. It was a decision to step into a spiritual battle, a battle that I wasn’t aware of in the least and a battle that was growing in intensity.”

“I still don’t know why God chose me to do what I did,” she continued, “but I’m learning, ever so slowly, to try and embrace conflict, to try to realize that some things will only change as I become willing to stand in opposition to the status quo, as I become willing to see beyond my need for peace and safety and learn to step out of the boat and make some waves.”

Naturally, many of those who have seen Lia in action have questioned how much of the credit for her accomplishments she can truthfully accept: have not her parents held her by the hand all the while, prodding her to take on these controversial topics and perhaps even writing her speeches for her? 

But according to Lia’s mother, this simply is not the case.

According to Kimberly, not only did Lia independently make the decision to speak about abortion, but she and her husband even urged Lia to choose another topic when her original choice was opposed by her teacher. 

While Christian and pro-life in their convictions, the Mills had never been involved in the pro-life movement. “We tended to regard [abortion] as a ‘side issue’, and we focused our attention elsewhere,” says Kimberly. 

“Many times,” she continued, “we’ve asked [Lia] if she wants to step away from pursuing this.  Every time another speaking engagement comes up, we leave it to her to decide whether to accept.  Each time she prays and comes back with her answer and, up to now, she’s always felt that pressing on is what God wants for her.”

While Kimberly says she’d like “to think that, as parents, we’ve made a positive impact on Lia …  as I see what God is doing in and through her, I know it goes way beyond what we’ve done.  Often, I find myself, like Mary, just marveling and pondering these things in my heart.”

As for the actual content of Lia’s speeches, the writing and research is performed almost entirely by the young girl herself, though she does seek advice from her family regarding pacing, flow, and content. Sometimes her speeches will go through as many as 7 or 8 drafts.

The power of new media

When Lia’s parents uploaded her first speech onto Youtube, with the intention of sharing it with family friends, they were completely unprepared for the reaction. The statistics for the video immediately shot through the roof, and it sparked a heated debate – so heated, in fact, that the Mills were forced to shut down commenting on the video after death threats were leveled against Lia. 

Lia says that through witnessing the response to that video, “I really developed an appreciation for the work that any pro-life organization does, because there is so much backlash and opposition.”

But while the “opposition was extremely intense … so was the support,” she says.

The greatest affirmation of the effectiveness of that video came in the form of a comment on the video by someone who said that his aunt had decided against getting an abortion, after watching Lia’s speech.

After seeing the possibilities of Youtube, Lia has gone on to produce a number of new videos tackling different aspects of the pro-life issue. The videos have since become more sophisticated, as the Mills have begun to splice together footage and use other effects, but they are still recording with the same basic point-and-shoot as at first. 

While none of these videos have enjoyed nearly the same level of exposure as the first one, they all have healthy stats – between ten and fifty thousand views.

Big words from a little person

A quick glance at the comments beneath these videos shows that the commonest rebuttal to Lia’s arguments is her age … and her size. But while she herself is the first to acknowledge her youth and inexperience, she is completely undeterred.

“I know these all seem like big words coming form a very little person, but we’re all little compared to God,” she told the pro-life conference. “God’s not looking at how big we are, or how smart we are or how popular we are.  He’s just looking at how willing we are.”

Lia is certainly willing. And perhaps equally as important, given her age, so is her family. She has two siblings (plus a third in his mother’s womb), and - while Lia’s lookalike youngest sister can get frustrated explaining that she is not her famous sibling - they are both “very proud” of her, says Kimberly. In fact, when Lia first started getting so much attention her whole family prayed and fasted together to discern God’s will. “We knew that what was happening with Lia was going to affect us all in some way,” says her mother. 

And when the family finally “voted”  on where to go with it, “everyone was unanimous in their belief that God was behind this and that we should press forward.”

And press forward they have. 

As Lia explained it in the conclusion to her speech at the conference: “It’s often said and believed that God will never give us a problem that’s too big for us to handle. But my youth pastor took that and he dared to disagree. He said ‘No! God always gives us a problem that’s way, way to big for us to handle, but not too big for us to handle together with Him.’

“So here we are, with this, massively huge conflict and battle laying before us, but an even bigger God behind us, backing us up and watching over us. As someone wiser than me once said, ‘All it takes for evil to prevail, is for good men to do nothing.’ In this conflict, let’s not be guilty of doing nothing. Stay strong, and do what you can; every little thing counts.”

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