Keep on Rockin' in the Pro-Life World
Anyone who attended the March for Life in Washington last January had to notice the large number of young people asserting their respect for life in all stages of its development. Many of these young right-to-life supporters are members of Rock for Life, an organization that has quickly become one of the loudest voices calling for the end of abortion.
The organization was founded in 1993 when Bryan Kemper set up a one-day concert called “Rock for Life” to raise money for a pregnancy help center and to raise awareness about the horrors of abortion. Rock for Life grew in size and, in 1998, became part of the youth outreach program of the American Life League, the nation's largest pro-life educational organization.
In the four years since, Rock for Life has expanded from 20 chapters to 127; most are in the United States but some are in Canada and Africa. The exact number of members isn't known, but in 2001 the group delivered more than 80,000 signatures of a “Pro-Life Youth Pledge” to a member of the U.S. Congress, according to former co-director Eric Whittington.
The group's mission is to educate young Americans — primarily of high-school age — about abortion, infanticide and euthanasia through music and ministry. Among its efforts, Rock for Life hosts concerts featuring pro-life bands, presents educational booths at concerts and festivals, produces pro-life compilation CDs, supports more than 100 Christian and secular bands in presenting a pro-life message, and provides literature to students and youth groups.
Its outreach efforts also include encouraging and participating in peaceful activism. Activities include distributing literature near high schools, holding prayer and worship services in front of abortion clinics, participating in national pro-life events and activities, and providing alternatives for girls with crisis pregnancies. According to its Web site, Rock for Life “is dedicated to this fight until abortion is abolished and a respect for the gift of life is restored.”
Some Catholic members of Rock for Life say their involvement has helped them grow in faith.
“It's given me more courage to stand up for my faith,” says Matt Sciba, a 23-year-old junior at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., who is co-director of a local chapter. “It's hard sometimes to do that if you're outnumbered. But I'm not afraid to stand up and be firm in my beliefs.”
Babies Change Everything
Sciba, from Plano, Texas, first learned about Rock for Life when he went to the March for Life in January 2001 and saw members of the group marching. “They wanted to tell people that it's okay to stand up for pro-life,” he says. Sciba was intrigued. Shortly after he formed a chapter near his north Texas home and later started the chapter at his college in Kansas.
The group sets up activities such as a guest speakers and benefits for a local crisis-pregnancy center. At one recent event, supporters collected a carload of baby items for the center. Sciba tries to encourage other young people to join the movement.
Jennifer Nelson, director of the Wayne County, Mich., chapter, joined Rock for Life in September 2001 and started the chapter in March of the following year. The 23-year-old senior at Wayne State University, who hails from Wyandotte, Mich., was “always pro-life” but didn't give the abortion issue much thought until she became a mother.
“When I had my baby everything changed; I got more involved in the pro-life movement,” Nelson says. “Most abortions happen to people our age, 15 to 25, and it's important that youths get involved because it's our generation” being affected. The Wayne County chapter, which has about 25 members, organizes events such as pro-life concerts. Nelson, who is Catholic, says the group prays for strength before and after every meeting.
Nelson, like Sciba, is confident Rock for Life efforts will contribute to bringing an end to legalized abortion.
Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, considers Rock for Life a critical element of the pro-life cause.
“It's important not just for the American Life League but for the future of our country,” she says. “One of the things our youth outreach program pursues is the formation of leadership-type individuals who will carry this battle forward and hopefully live to see the end of this terrible scourge of abortion. They are the future of the pro-life movement.”
Brown says that by actively pursuing pro-life activities in their communities, the young people in the Rock for Life chapters are influencing many others. “It has a mushroom effect through their families and schools as well,” she says.
Rock for Life includes people of different religions, Brown says. She is encouraged by how many of the youths have become stronger in their Catholic faith and by how many have converted to the Catholic faith since getting involved in the organization.
“Young people are open to the truth,” Brown says, “and the fullness of truth is the Catholic faith.”
The American Life League has launched other efforts to draw young people into the pro-life movement. These include a publication aimed at young people called Reality Check and Crossroads, a program in which pro-life college students spend the summer walking across the country and praying in churches and outside abortion clinics. The walk starts in San Francisco on the feast of the Ascension and ends in Washington, D.C., with a Mass in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the feast of the Assumption.
Brown says the growing involvement of young people in the pro-life movement is evident at the March for Life held in Washington every January.
“I've been at the march for the last 20 years, and it has steadily gotten younger and younger,” she says. “That's a tremendous inspiration to us.”
Bob Violino writes from Massapequa Park, New York.