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"It is only by feeling your love that the poor will forgive you for the gifts of bread." - St. Vincent de Paul.
Often pro-lifers are accused of not having enough "compassion" for people who are already born, i.e. the hungry, the poor, etc. This charge is so bogus that it does not really need to be refuted. In addition to their pro-life efforts, most pro-lifers actively work for their fellow man in dozens of other "compassionate" ways, college pro-life students not in the least. Still there is always room for a few more suggestions.
Social action on your group's part is not only educational, but serves a vital function in our society. After all, a society can be judged to be civilized only if its people care about their elderly, their poor, their sick, their handicapped, and their children, both born and unborn. Social action on your part will also help break down some of the stereotypes people hold of pro-lifers.
Associating your group's name and reputation with works of mercy will not only give your members experience in promoting positive, pro-life solutions to the problems our world faces, but it may make the pro-abortion-biased media take greater notice of your group and help shake them from their prejudices. I have recommended (see "The Scope of Pro-Life Issues" in Chapter Three) that college right-to-life groups engage in social action programs that are not directly pro-life on an occasional basis only. Many are the organizations that are involved in social action, but your group is the only one on your campus focusing on pro-life issues. Do not become too diffuse. The following are some social action suggestions for your college right-to-life group.
Working with other campus groups, groups that are explicitly service organizations is an excellent way to involve your group in social action without diverting too many of your group's resources. Your group can cooperate with service organizations such as Alpha Phi Omega help needy folks, and still have time to do pro-life work.
Direct involvement in works of charity is an important way to show your concern for all persons.
Work with Emergency Pregnancy Services. Members of your group could be encouraged to become emergency pregnancy counselors for an organization such as Birthright or your local Crisis Pregnancy Center. Though many people do not realize it, homes for unwed high-schoolers who decide to have their babies still exist, and college students can help in these homes by offering their services as tutors to help the girls continue their schooling, or, perhaps, as baby-sitters.
One of the most important ways college groups can help emergency pregnancy services is to make the existence of these centers well known on campus. On most college campuses at any given time there will be a number of young women who are pregnant. They may be considering an abortion. But if your group can keep the names and phone numbers of a emergency pregnancy service up around campus, these women might just choose to let their babies live. You can marshal all of your publicity know-how (see Chapter Seven) for this purpose.
If your group is large enough you might consider starting an pregnancy crisis counseling center or hot-line on your campus. This takes a big commitment, and you will need outside help and training. Contact an existing pro-life pregnancy counseling center for more information on how to start this one.
Work with the Handicapped. Euthanasia and "mercy-killing" are gaining increasing acceptance in our society, and the chief targets of these "advances" are the handicapped and the seriously ill. People are afraid of or repulsed by the idea of severe handicaps. Much of this comes from having little contact with handicapped people. Get dedication, and it is most effective on an individual level.
Several students active with the right-to-life group at Carnegie-Mellon University also do volunteer work with a young girl who is brain damaged. They devote two hours each and every week to helping in a rehabilitation effort known as the Spitz Clinic Patterning and Rehabilitation Program. Getting involved in this sort of effort depends on the availability of opportunities and on the ability of the individual to give up sizable blocks of his or her time on a regular basis. While commendable in those who can do it, it is not for everyone.
There are also possibilities of helping the handicapped on an occasional basis. Activities such as taking a group of blind children ice skating, or some mentally handicapped children swimming can be arranged if your group contacts the proper people. Other possibilities include helping the elderly with their shopping, or visiting them in rest homes. The University of Pittsburgh sponsors a "Hand-in-Hand" festival for handicapped children each spring, and many members of that school's right-to-life group lend a hand; your group could participate in this sort of event. Check into the opportunities.
Work with the Poor. Members of the group at Carnegie-Mellon University work at the nearby Jubilee Soup Kitchen from time to time. Every day this soup kitchen provides a hot meal to anyone who comes, and two hundred or so people come each day. The kitchen is in constant need of volunteers, and it provides our group with a chance to do some real good in the world. There are literally hundreds of similar charitable works with which your group could involve itself.
In general, your group could offer its services to any charities in your area. You can provide the manpower to help with mailings, painting, moving, and a hundred other tasks that may seem far removed from helping others directly. But you can help many groups help others. One way to contact these groups is to contact the local offices of the Catholic Charities, your local public welfare office, or perhaps the United Way. I should note here that the United Way in many areas provides support for organizations that advocate or perform abortions, such as Planned Parenthood, and that right-to-life groups should shun groups such as the March of Dimes (which indirectly supports the abortion mentality by funding amniocentesis research and refusing to condemn its use to selectively abort unborn children with handicaps).
Help for Unwed Mothers. An excellent idea for social action which is at once charitable to the poor and very pro-life and readily accomplish able by college right-to-life groups is the collection of "baby supplies" for donation to emergency pregnancy services. Numerous pro-life emergency pregnancy services attempt to supply new mothers who are unwed or unsupported with cribs, sheets, baby clothes, baby formula, diapers, toys and a hundred other items necessary to raise a child.
College groups can organize drives to collect many of these items. Cribs, training toilets, strollers, toys, and baby clothes often can be purchased cheaply at garage sales and thrift stores. By canvassing the neighborhoods near their school, college students can solicit donations of baby supplies and/or money for emergency pregnancy services. Diaper services and groceries can be approached for donations of diapers and baby food, respectively.
The nature of this idea is well-suited to college right-to-life groups. It can be easily divided up among the group's members, and a college group can complete a large amount of this project during times that college students are free, say Saturday mornings. College groups have a reasonable hope of accomplishing a tangible amount of good in the time-frame of a semester. This idea can be approached as an ongoing project for a college group - that is, the college group could be continually collecting baby supplies and giving them to an emergency pregnancy service - or it could be a one-time event. I would like to see college groups, especially those in urban areas, adopt this idea as an ongoing project; it has a great potential as an area where college pro-lifers can contribute to the right-to-life movement.
Some pro-life groups have gotten involved with pro-life rape crisis centers or with penal institutions, visiting those in prison. I would remind you, however, that there are limits to each group's capabilities. Again, remember that many students will be involved in many works of charity among the poor, the sick, the prisoners, the hungry, but chances are that only your group will be concerned with mercy for the defenseless unborn. Abortion is not the only issue, but it is the critical one. Do good works, but remember that yours is a pro-life organization, and its primary message should be that human life must be protected, preserved, and nurtured.
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© Copyright Andrew A. Siicree, 1985, 1997.
Permission is granted to any pro-life group or pro-life individual to copy this handbook provided that proper attribution is given.