Generation Y: The Pro-Life Generation

Pro-life is becoming mainstream. Are we at a tipping point?

YOUNG PEOPLE FOR LIFE. March for Life participants make their way up Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court building in Washington Jan. 22.
YOUNG PEOPLE FOR LIFE. March for Life participants make their way up Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court building in Washington Jan. 22. (photo: CNS photo/Peter Lockley)

America’s pro-life future is looking brighter thanks to Generation Y, the Millennials, those 60 million people born between the late ’70s and the late ’90s.

“Our generation is the pro-life generation,” said Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life of America (SFLA) in Arlington, Va., adding that she hopes that her generation is the one that will overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that struck down anti-abortion state laws in the United States.

Opinion polls show a shift in the views of this generation from earlier generations, as well as that our country has become more pro-life than “pro-choice.”

Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, in his new book, Beyond a House Divided: The Moral Consensus Ignored by Washington, Wall Street, and the Media (Doubleday, 2010), agrees that the tide is turning toward a more pro-life society in America.

“Young people are increasingly pro-life,” he writes. “Fifty-six percent of the general population believes abortion is morally wrong, an opinion that resonates in strong majorities across age demographics.”

A January Knights of Columbus/Marist poll showed that 58% of all 18- to 29-year-olds said that abortion is morally wrong, along with Generation X — the generation now 30-44 years old — of whom 60% believe abortion is morally wrong. These results are a positive increase from the baby boomers, ages 45-64, of whom 51% believe abortion is morally wrong.

In a follow-up poll the next month, 66% of Catholic Millennials said that abortion is morally wrong, and 63% believe that euthanasia is as well.

This shift is echoed in a May 2009 “Annual Values and Beliefs” survey by Gallup, which asked, “With respect to the abortion issue, would you consider yourself to be pro-choice or pro-life?” For the first time since the survey has been conducted, 51% of Americans called themselves pro-life and 42% called themselves “pro-choice.” In 2008, 44% called themselves pro-life, and 50% were “pro- choice.”

“The polls have made pro-life mainstream,” said Hawkins. SFLA chapters on college campuses have grown from 181 in 2006 to more than 570 today, in 43 states. Its annual convention last year was attended by 1,150 pro-life students from 150 universities and was called the largest pro-life youth conference in the world.

Analyzing the Pro-Life Shift

Steve Phelan, communications manager for Human Life International, has hope for the future of America and its growing supporters for life. Based in Front Royal, Va., HLI is currently working in 105 countries around the world.

“This is something we see internationally,” he says. “Once abortion and other elements of the culture of death really take root in a culture, there is always this advance in the culture of death. Then at a certain point people realize — and it’s always from the bottom — what is going on and they try and reverse it.”

He considers that part of the recent spike in pro-life support is a response to aggressively pro-abortion action by the Obama administration and Congress.

“A lot of times when you see a spike it is united opposition to something,” he explains.

Public opinion is reflected in the current political races.

“There is a resurgence of Americans who want to take their country back,” says Dianne Edmondson, executive director of the Republican National Coalition for Life. “And on the whole, the people who are concerned about the way our country is going are pro-life, and social and fiscal conservatives.”

Signs of Pro-Life Progress
According to Phelan, in addition to the May 2009 Gallup poll, proof that progress has been made in America in the pro-life movement is there if you know where to look.

“You can see the growth of the March for Life. The marches have been huge the last couple of years,” he says. “They had to start a march on the West Coast, and there are marches locally all over the country.”

Nellie Gray, founder and president of March for Life, agrees that more people have been coming to Washington than ever before to participate in the annual January rally on the anniversary of Roe.

“In ’09 and ’10, there is no doubt that we have had a large increase in people coming to the march,” Gray says.

The crowd marches down Constitution Avenue and ends at the steps of the Supreme Court. No official numbers for the 2010 march were released, but estimates of attendees were more than 300,000.

“I recently spoke with a bus captain from New Jersey who has been bringing a busload of people to the march for the past six years from a parish,” Gray says. “This year, one bus is not enough. He has to get another bus, and the neighboring parish is also coming.”

She said that more young people are coming to the march as well, and the message is spreading by word of mouth.

“There are a large number of home-schooling families coming,” Gray recounts. “There are also a lot of schools bringing kids. Kids are meeting other children at the march and making friends, and meeting people their own age.”

The experience teaches young people the importance of standing up for life and builds the culture of life for the future.

Technology Assists Mission

Sonograms, some now in 3-D and 4-D, are being used in crisis-pregnancy centers across the country to save the lives of hundreds of babies. A Knights of Columbus Ultrasound Initiative, launched in January 2009, has placed over 55 machines in 22 states.

“More than 90% of women decide to keep their baby after seeing the picture of the sonogram,” says Peter Sonski, director of public relations for the Knights of Columbus. “That technology is unquestionably helping and it’s funny because it is just the truth. Our opponents in this fight are trying to get those banned.”

Internet technology is also assisting by reaching thousands with pro-life information and images.

“Communications technology through organizations like Live Action, Students for Life and Catholic Vote are giving us terrific images that we know are changing hearts,” Phelan explains. “Technology works to serve truth. It moves people in the right direction.”

“We embrace technology. It’s perfect for grassroots organizations,” says Hawkins. “Young people are on the Internet. We can get the pro-life message out through Facebook.” She said that Twitter, YouTube, webcasts, e-mails and images of babies in the womb all work toward revealing that an unborn baby is a person.

Promoting the dignity of the human person is the goal of the pro-life movement.

“Our goal is to end abortion, but also, we need to have a vision: to achieve a society that respects all human life, preborn, the elderly,” Hawkins reflects.

“It’s not just about overturning Roe,” Phelan says. “That still leaves us in a legal tennis match. It is still about changing hearts and minds and stopping evil.”

Lisa Socarras writes from Annandale, Virginia.