At the University of California-Los Angeles, they’re boldly going where no UCLA student has gone before: seeking out brave new ways to protect and defend human life in all stages of its development.
Live Action, the only pro-life student group at the school, recently delivered a bolt from the blue when its feisty independent newspaper, The Advocate, published an undercover report alleging that counselors at the UCLA student health center were promoting abortion as the most sensible course of action for students with unplanned pregnancies.
Now Live Action is reaching out to campus religious groups, hoping they will help reduce the abortion rate at UCLA by providing resources for students who want to carry their babies to term.
Freshman Lila Rose, founder-president of Live Action and editor-in-chief of The Advocate, first began to think about the need for such resources when she noticed a strange discontinuity on campus. “A lot of students are sexually active, and some are becoming pregnant,” she told the Register. “But it’s extremely rare to see a pregnant woman on campus. Why is that?”
With that question in mind, she perused the health center’s website. “There was plenty of information about sex, but the only mentions of pregnancy had to do with contraception or abortion,” she says. “What if someone wanted to keep her baby?”
Rose talked to fellow students, resident assistants and university officials. At each turn, she recalls, “people just didn’t know what to tell me. Eventually I realized that the only way I would really understand the complex experience of a pregnant student at UCLA was by becoming one of them.”
So it was that, in November, Rose visited UCLA’s student health clinic pretending to be unexpectedly pregnant. She met with Nurse Practitioner Ann Brooks, who spoke to Rose for a little over an hour.
“Brooks told me I could keep the baby, but emphasized the negative things about that,” according to Rose. “She talked about how embarrassing and difficult it would be. She mentioned adoption, but dismissed that as having all the difficulty of pregnancy without any of the rewards. Then she brought up abortion. She called that ‘safe’ and ‘convenient’ and then launched into detail about how I could get one for free and without my parents’ knowledge.”
According to Rose, Brooks summed up the very situation that concerns Live Action members: “UCLA doesn’t support people who are pregnant or make things easier for them, necessarily.”
Awake and Aware
For psychological and emotional counseling, Rose says Brooks referred her to UCLA’s Center for Women and Men. There, Rose — still under the guise of a pregnant student — says she spoke with Associate Director Christine Miller. According to Rose, Miller told her that abortion was “not a moral issue” and cautioned Rose against discussing the decision with a priest or other religious leader.
“She said, ‘Many churches are against abortion and they may try to get you to oppose it, too,’” Rose says. “Ironically, she warned me to be careful of people with agendas.”
Brooks declined to speak with the Register about Rose’s published report. Miller could not be reached. Jo Ann Dawson, interim director of the student health center, stated that the school’s counselors try to provide “honest and non-judgmental” information to any student who approaches them, including “the benefits and limitations of the options.”
“The decision on how to proceed always rests with the student,” she said. “We believe the discussions between the Student Affairs counselors and [Rose], when heard in their entirety, demonstrate a commitment to providing information on the range of options and support to the student.”
Rose hopes her article will awaken her campus to the regularity with which pregnant students feel pressured to choose abortion while at UCLA.
She also hopes the research published in The Advocate about the unborn child’s humanity and the health risks abortion carries will speak to all students, regardless of religion or beliefs.
“Ultimately, I’m pro-life because I’m Christian,” explains Rose. “But I think that, even if I weren’t Christian, I would still see the facts. Abortion literally tears apart a human being who is in every way human, who deserves the right to life.”
Rose, who thinks of herself as a “nondenominational” Christian, says she is open to learning more about the Catholic Church.
‘I Had No Idea’
Feminists for Life, the national, nonsectarian organization that promotes adoption and parenting resources, is working with Live Action to bring practical pro-life solutions to UCLA. Serrin Foster, president of Feminists for Life, has spoken out in support of Rose and Live Action.
“This is about nothing less than changing the culture,” Foster says. “A new generation of student leaders like Rose is stepping forward to create a better world for women and their children.”
As Live Action steps forward with its message, it invites UCLA’s faith-based groups — especially the Catholic community — to step forward, too. Live Action’s religious-outreach director, freshman Kit Curtius, has already spoken to Protestant groups InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and Campus Crusade for Christ, and she plans to approach the University Catholic Center soon.
Curtius — a Catholic and a regular participant in activities at the Catholic Center — expressed surprise at how little talk about life issues takes place in UCLA’s Catholic community. The activity list on the Catholic Center’s website (uccla.org) teems with mission trips, soup-kitchen rounds, tutoring days and St. Vincent de Paul Society meetings. But there are no links to pro-life groups or pregnancy-resource centers.
Cecile Gray, a campus minister at the Catholic Center, told the Register that the center offers “whatever support a pregnant student needs or wants. Certainly, if they need someone to talk to, we’re always available.” Gray also said she can’t comment on specific policy, or on reasons for not having a pro-life Catholic student group, because she’s new to her job.
Curtius says the apparent indifference toward the pro-life cause at all levels of campus life may owe to a lack of basic awareness on the matter among students. She cites student reactions to Live Action’s display of tiny gravestones on the Jan. 22 anniversary of Roe v. Wade. A banner noted that the overall number of lost unborn children since 1973 totaled more than 40 million.
“People came up to me, saying, ‘I had no idea,’” Curtius says. “Abortion is one of the biggest atrocities in our society, but it’s totally under-publicized on our campus.”
“If you accept the Catholic position on the dignity of the human person, it’s hard to view abortion through any other lens,” says Corey Garriott, a Catholic convert and Live Action member. “The world follows its own way, and that’s not going to be ours — but there are some things we can do to create change.”
Katy Carl is based in St. Louis.