College Students Fight for Life

WASHINGTON — Entering its fourth decade, the pro-life movement is getting younger — thanks to the diligence of organizations like American Collegians for Life.

Serving as a nationwide network and information clearinghouse, American Collegians for Life is best known for its annual pro-life conference held in conjunction with the annual March for Life in Washington.

“It's a chance for pro-life students to hear inspirational stories from these great luminaries, plus learning the nuts and bolts things to do on their campuses,” said Mattai Radu, the organization's outreach director for the eastern United States.

The workshops are important, he said, so that students don't have to reinvent the wheel.

“We teach them how to get funding, how to deal with a hostile administration and how to deal with other hostile student organizations,” Radu told the Register.

Which is invaluable help to those students brave enough to defend life in academia, where all too often there is overwhelming support for abortion.

Pro-life groups aren't the biggest organizations on America's campuses, “but they're there and we want to fund them,” said Radu, a sophomore at Villanova University in Philadelphia. “If we find one student who is gung-ho pro-life, then we equip him with the tools to get 15 or 20 others involved that would-n't have been involved otherwise.”

Without a pro-life group on campus, students will often hear only from abortion supporters.

“Kids are more pro-life when they enter college than when they leave, which is dangerous and disturbing,” said George Paci, a Cornell alumnus who chairs Collegians for Life's board. “If there's no vocal pro-lifers, then there's a missed opportunity.”

In 1991, Paci founded the Ivy League Coalition for Life, which holds annual conferences and has worked hard to bring the message of life to the best-rated colleges in the Northeast.

“People have this image that the Ivy League is more pro-abortion. We want to say that it isn't uniformly pro-abortion,” Paci told the Register. “We want to challenge the idea that the smarter you are, the more you love abortion.”

American Collegians for Life, which counts over a thousand student members nationwide, works with other organizations to find innovative ways to promote life. They collaborated with Feminists for Life on an educational program designed to challenge students to question abortion and ask college and university administrators to provide resources for pregnant and parenting students.

“American Collegians for Life has been instrumental in helping to implement Feminists for Life's college outreach program on campuses across the country,” said Molly Pannell, who serves as Feminists for Life's Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator. “We are very excited that Feminists for Life President Serrin Foster will be speaking at the 2001 American Collegians for Life conference,” she said.

Previously, Pannell served as president and then as board member for American Collegians for Life.

Encouraging students to attend the organization's annual conference leads to more pro-life campus activism, said Paci.

“Coming to the conference is a wonderful bonding experience. It's a good way to start a group,” he said. About 75 students attended the 2000 conference and the organization expects over 100 this year.

Even if they're not in college, Paci said, interested pro-lifers can help by informing college students about the organization's website,, or by contributing financially.

The 14th annual conference, to be held Jan. 19-21, will feature speeches by Serrin Foster, president of Feminists for Life, Mary Jane Owen from the U.S. bishops' National Catholic Office for Persons with Disabilities and Patty Lyman from American Center for Law and Justice.

How big an impact can this conference have? Radu, who attended his first conference just last year and is already an outreach director, said the meeting “inspired me to get more involved in this issue on a national level. This is what I want to do with my life.”

Joshua Mercer writes from Washington, D.C.

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito says of discerning one’s college choice, ‘There has to be something that tugs at you and makes you want to investigate it further. And then the personal encounter comes in the form of a visit or a chat with a student or alumnus who communicates with the same enthusiasm or energy about the place. And then that love of a place can be a seed which germinates in your own heart through prayer.’

Choose a College With a Discerning Mind and Heart

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito, assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas (UD) and subprior (and former vocations director) of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, drew from his experience as both a student and now monastic religious to help those discerning understand the parallels between religious and college discernment.