Catholic Millennials Passionate About Building a Culture of Life

Young activists stand up for life on and off campus.

Prevented from going to Washington for the March for Life because of Storm Jonas, the Notre Dame Right to Life organization has Mass and a rally on campus on Jan. 22.
Prevented from going to Washington for the March for Life because of Storm Jonas, the Notre Dame Right to Life organization has Mass and a rally on campus on Jan. 22. (photo: Photo by Alexandra DeSanctis)

WASHINGTON — Winter Storm Jonas descended upon the East Coast, burying Washington in nearly three feet of snow. But the storm, which began around 1pm Jan. 22, didn’t stop thousands from turning out on the streets of the nation’s capital for the 43rd annual March for Life.

Andrew Guernsey, a senior at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, made it to D.C. for this year’s march. “The hundreds of thousands out here braving the blizzard for the march this year is a sign of our energy and seriousness about abolishing abortion like we did slavery in this country — to not only outlaw abortion, but to make it unthinkable,” he said.

“The fight [to] save every pre-born human life from the violence of abortion has been a core part of my identity as a young Catholic and a pro-life leader at my secular campus at Johns Hopkins University,” Guernsey added. “A new generation of young Catholics is coming to realize that we can — and must — be the generation that can finally put an end to this awful bloodshed of abortion.”


Proud to Be Pro-Life

Laura Cermak hoped to attend the march again this year, after serving as president of her high school’s pro-life club and being recognized by the Susan B. Anthony List as a high-school pro-life leader in 2014. But the impending storm canceled her college’s annual trip to the march.

Come snow or not, Cermak, a freshman at Christendom College in Front Royal, Va., emphasized the importance of leadership in the pro-life cause. “If young people have a knack for discerning and abhorring injustice, and I believe we do, we need fearless, organized leaders to harness our collective energy,” she said.

“Leading the respect-life club at my high school was very good training, not just in organizing, but also in educating my peers about some of the life issues that don’t always make headlines, like contraception, embryonic stem-cell research and euthanasia,” Cermak continued.

Michael Khan, a sophomore at Georgetown University in Washington and president of Georgetown University Right to Life, said he became involved in the pro-life movement when he realized how antithetical legalized abortion is to our constitutional rights.

“As a pre-med student, I know that life begins at the moment of conception, and there's no debate about it,” he said. “Abortion embodies the largest violation of human rights in the world today, so that’s why it’s so important to me and so many of my peers.”

More than 800 students and faculty at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. — along with students from nearby Holy Cross College and St. Mary’s College — were planning to attend the March for Life in Washington but because of concern over the blizzard, the trip was canceled. Instead, hundreds of students, faculty and other community members celebrated morning Mass in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on Notre Dame’s campus and processed around campus to demonstrate for the pro-life cause.

“I was very disappointed that we weren’t able to make it to D.C.,” said Will Harris, a Notre Dame senior who served as coordinator for this year’s trip to the national march, “but I think God was calling us to do something right at home. Marching at Notre Dame gave many, even those who would not have been able to or wanted to go to D.C., the opportunity to pray and reflect on what it means to be truly pro-life.”


Confronting America’s Abortion Provider

This year’s march had particular significance, given David Daleiden’s three-year investigation of Planned Parenthood, an investigation that yielded hours of video footage, much of which was released by Daleiden’s Center for Medical Progress beginning last summer.

These videos — which featured Planned Parenthood executives allegedly negotiating prices of fetal body parts and discussing the details of abortion procedures with clients — have given pro-life leaders more evidence in their campaign against the organization.

“We have seen the ultrasounds. We have seen the videos of Planned Parenthood selling baby parts. We have seen babies butchered and women betrayed, exploited and abused by the abortion industry in our communities,” Guernsey said. “We refuse to give an inch to the false ‘war on women’ rhetoric from an industry that exploits mothers and dismembers baby girls.”

Khan said he often tells his peers about Planned Parenthood’s — and founder Margaret Sanger’s — efforts to limit the African-American population by using birth control and abortion.

“I think the most important thing I can tell them is … that while Planned Parenthood may provide a lot of other services, the vast majority of the money they take in comes from abortion procedures,” he noted.

“I also explain that this fight is not about women’s health care,” Khan continued. “It’s, rather, about an organization that has so violated basic human decency and the public trust that it does not deserve taxpayer-funded support.”

Cermak emphasized that powerful and emotional arguments are often readily available in the fight against abortion, whereas opposing something like embryonic stem-cell research can be more difficult. “In my generation, one out of three children have been lost to the world before being given so much as a name to remember them by,” she said. “In our world of sound bites, it is particularly hard to be brief, informative and inspiring all at once. Therefore, it will take youthful creativity to develop a powerful, fruitful defense of human dignity for every person.”

“The fact that pro-lifers get pushback simply means we’re doing our job,” Khan claimed. “Unfortunately, though, especially on campuses like Georgetown, there is so much hate-filled opposition to the pro-life cause, and that is often very discouraging to see.”

“I know students who horrifically endured an act of rape or got pregnant at an early age in life, but who now value the child’s life more than anything in the world,” he continued. “I think that helps us fight this fight more than anything else, knowing that, as Dr. [Martin Luther] King said, the moment we become silent about things that matter is the moment our lives lose meaning.”

Guernsey’s passion for the pro-life movement led him to serve as founding president of JHU Voice for Life in 2013, and he now works as external outreach for the Abortion-Free DC campaign.

“Here in Washington … we are fighting an intense battle to stop Planned Parenthood from completing construction on a massive abortion center right next to an elementary school in Northeast D.C.,” Guernsey explained.

“Young people, especially young Catholics, need to increasingly realize that abortion will not be abolished until we all urgently get involved in our local and campus pro-life groups and bring our friends along,” Guernsey concluded. “Together we can abolish abortion in our communities, shutting down one clinic at a time, and counseling one mother in a crisis pregnancy at a time.”

Register correspondent Alexandra DeSanctis is a senior at the University of Notre Dame.