Lila Rose was still in college, studying at UCLA, when she founded Live Action with the mission of sharing the truth about abortion and the abortion industry. She believed, and still believes, that when people learn the truth about abortion, they reject it. “Hearts and minds do change,” she frequently says.
Rose is best known for Live Action’s undercover investigations of Planned Parenthood. She and other investigators have filmed Planned Parenthood staff members agreeing to cover up statutory rape, aiding sex traffickers and lying about fetal development. Live Action continues to produce videos, articles and other online content, reaching millions of people with the truth about abortion.
Recently married and the mother of a newborn son, Rose discussed the pro-life movement’s growing successes, and the strengths and weaknesses of Planned Parenthood and the abortion lobby, in a Jan. 6 interview with the Register.
What do you see as some of the biggest wins and losses of the pro-life movement over the last 20 years?
First, the pro-life movement is growing! We have seen an increasing pro-life shift among younger people, millennials and Gen Z. I think this is the direct result of education and the fact that we have access to information that we didn’t have before. Technology that shows life in the womb — like ultrasounds — has been an incredibly powerful tool to show people the reality of life in the womb, but the rise of new and independent media has been crucial, as well. New media, like social media and independent journalism, has been a key tool over the last 10 to 15 years to help educate millions of people. When people see the truth about what abortion is, what it does to a baby, and the harm it does to women and families, it is transformative. It’s why Live Action focuses on reaching millions of people every week with compelling pro-life educational videos, articles, graphics and messages. We see hearts and minds change all the time on abortion when simply given the opportunity to know the truth.
Legislatively, some of the big wins have been a result of the increased focus on total legal protection for preborn babies, as well as the defunding of abortion providers like Planned Parenthood. It’s good because we shouldn’t pick between one baby at a certain gestational age versus another, but protect all babies at every age. These legislative wins also prepare the country for the showdown that’s coming at the Supreme Court.
Our movement has also seen growth in the pregnancy-resource center world over the last 20 years. There are thousands of pregnancy-resource centers across the country that are caring for women, children and families in need every single day and many amazing organizations working to improve the services, marketing and community outreach of these centers. These groups are the heart and soul of our movement and are a big part of our success.
Reported numbers show a decline in abortions in the U.S. Why do you think that is?
I think there are several factors. Because of a piece of educational content from Live Action or the efforts of other pro-life groups, we often hear, “I was going to have an abortion; now I’m not,” or “I was pro-choice; now I’m pro-life.” Whether it’s education about actual abortion procedures, prenatal development, inspiring stores of women and girls choosing life, or learning about the many life-giving options available, education changes minds and saves lives. The rise of other resources for women, the positive messaging around adoption, and the many thousands of pregnancy-resource centers are also helping save lives daily.
Stronger laws that ban abortions or the defunding or closing of abortion facilities also contribute to the decline. We have states that passed laws to protect life or shut down abortion facilities. Reducing the number of abortion businesses that are in our communities makes it more likely that a woman who is in a situation of fear and crisis will not immediately head to an abortion clinic, but instead will have the time to actually consider her options. She’ll have the time to learn about what other resources there are for her instead of being sold an abortion at a Planned Parenthood.
That said, we have to take those reported numbers of abortions with a grain of salt. It is hard to know what the national abortion numbers actually are. Not all states are required to report to the CDC. For example, California doesn’t report its abortion numbers to them. The Guttmacher Institute says that they provide numbers for all states, but their numbers are an estimate.
What do you think are the pro-abortion movement’s biggest strengths and weaknesses right now?
The pro-abortion movement has a perpetual branding and messaging problem because you can’t make abortion look good. The abortion industry can try really hard to hide the reality of abortion behind positive sounding words, stories or images, but anytime they actually begin to engage with the topic of what abortion is, they lose — because abortion is such a horrific, violent act against a completely defenseless innocent child, and it’s so damaging to the woman.
Another big weakness of the pro-abortion movement is, because they can never be popular, they tend to build alliances with other extreme progressive causes to attempt to win support from those groups, but that can make them appear even more fringe. It’s off-putting to many everyday Americans.
The strength of the pro-abortion movement lies in the fact that they’re so determined to continue to exist and that they are very well funded, both privately by billionaires like George Soros, the Buffets and the Gateses and publicly, with tax dollars. Because of that, even though their messaging and their branding is so inherently bad and what they’re fighting for is so horrible, they continue to have power.
Tragically, the abortion industry has also managed to become a major power player in the room with the Democratic Party. If you’re a Democrat today, and you have any kind of clout in the party, you have to be extremely pro-abortion, pro-Planned Parenthood and pro-abortion industry. The abortion industry has achieved this by buying politicians over the years and spending tens of millions of dollars during election cycles. Virtually all of the Democratic candidates for president are in support of tax-funded abortion on demand for any reason, a policy position that is opposed by the large majority of Americans.
The abortion lobby’s strengths are political and financial. Their weakness is the actual message that they’re sending to the country, the extremism of it, and the horror of what they do daily. When people see the truth about what happens in abortion facilities every day, most are appalled.
Planned Parenthood has had a bad year, including firing its president for her refusal to double down on abortion. How can the pro-life movement use their apparent weakness right now?
Planned Parenthood’s apparent weakness has been decades in the making. There have been efforts, even before Live Action or the Center for Medical Progress started doing investigative reporting, to expose the many abuses happening in the abortion industry. More and more people are waking up to the fact that Planned Parenthood is an abusive abortion corporation and not a positive women’s health nonprofit. It takes time, because Planned Parenthood has deep pockets and has worked for over 100 years to build a positive image in communities.
It will be interesting to see what moves they attempt to make next, but they don’t have a lot of good moves left to make. If they are going to continue increasing their market share of abortions and hold the line politically as being the abortion lobbyist in the room, they will never be mainstream or popular with everyday people. According to polling, most people are uncomfortable with abortion and most want significant legal restrictions on abortion. They don’t want to get behind an extremist political cause that supports killing children in the womb.
I think that Planned Parenthood’s days are numbered. The main reason they’re still alive today is because of tax funding. They get nearly half of their budget from taxpayers and, as long as they get that, they can stay afloat.
What new perspectives has your new baby given you on the abortion issue and being actively pro-life?
Being a mother has been an incredibly beautiful experience and privilege. I’m totally in love with our newborn, our little son, and I still can’t believe I’ve been so blessed. My husband and I both feel that way. It’s just an amazing privilege and joy. He’s a total little angel.
It has made this work even more visceral for me. Over the years of doing activism and advocacy, it’s been very intense to constantly face the horrific violence that’s happening to all these children. It’s heartbreaking. Now, having my own child and seeing his vulnerability and his preciousness, and getting to hold him and mother him, it breaks my heart to think of all the children who are not protected, who are not safe, in a whole new way. My heart was broken for them before, but now it’s broken in an even deeper way, getting to mother my little baby.
And I’m more committed than ever. There’s much work left to be done, but I am completely determined to end abortion in this country and beyond — soon — both abolishing it legally and making it culturally unacceptable. I am joined by thousands of other people who feel the same way, who are dedicated to the exact same mission. We will do everything in our power to accomplish that mission, and we will accomplish it, certainly within my lifetime.
What gives you hope?
What gives me hope is that we as human beings were made for love, and we were made to live in family and in community with each other. We weren’t made for violence and for destruction.
Nobody is born pro-abortion. It is not something that resonates with the human heart. When people learn the truth about what abortion is, when they see the humanity of the preborn child and violence that abortion does to that baby, whether in the first trimester, with his or her tiny heart beating at just three and a half weeks, or the second trimester, or the third, many hearts and minds change. It gives me hope that when you share the truth, when you do it with boldness and clarity and compassion, hearts and minds change. More and more people are being convicted that we need to stop the killing of our children and, as a result, are demanding complete legal protection for the preborn. I believe we are going to see complete legal protection and a major cultural shift.
Was your conversion to Catholicism connected to your involvement in the pro-life movement?
I was involved in the movement before I became Catholic. I started Live Action as a teenager, and there were times when I was doing pro-life work when I wasn’t even sure what my faith was or if I had a faith. But now, it is my Catholic faith that informs, inspires and sustains my work. I know that I am loved, and I’m a child of God. I know that every single human being is made in his image and likeness and is worth fighting for. That personal love that God has for each human being and that perfect design that he has creating each new human life is the inspiration for my own fight for life. Words can’t express how grateful I am for my Catholic faith, for the priceless gift of salvation Christ gave us in offering up his own life for us, and how through it I am able to continue the work and understand the value of my own life and the life of every other person.
The Church’s teachings on human life are the most beautiful teachings on the dignity of the person out there. I remember being a college student and reading, for the first time, some of the encyclicals on human life and human dignity. It’s incredibly compelling. The Church’s teachings on life and dignity were some of the guiding stars that helped lead me into the fullness of the Catholic faith.
Mary Rose Short writes from Southern California.