The Workings of a College Right-to-Life Group

"To the mother alone it has been given, that her soul during the nine months should touch the soul of the child...." - - Jean Baptiste Lacordaire, 1850.

The first five chapters of this handbook offer a description of how a college right-to-life group works. The questions "Why have a right-to-life group on campus?" and "How does one go about starting a college right-to-life group?" are answered. Chapter Five offers an introduction to the basic skills of leadership with an eye towards helping leaders of college right-to-life groups become better leaders.

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Chapter One

Why Have a College Right-to-Life Group?

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
--- The Declaration of Independence.

There are many and excellent apologists for the right-to-life movement who could do a much more eloquent job than I in answering the question, "Why have a right-to-life movement?" The reasons for any pro-life group's existence are those same ones which justify the entire idea of a "right to life." Put differently, if the concept of the right to life is fair and true, then someone should be out there defending it.

Rational supports for the right to life are plentiful and, often, self-evident, yet the very fact that this right has come to be questioned in our time makes the illumination of these supports a complex and necessary task. But as the right to life has been well defended by others much more able than I, I will only attempt to state a brief argument for its defense here, feeling that some creed is necessary in any text that concerns itself with such weighty matters as Life itself.

When I say that the justification for a right to life can be stated very simply, I mean just that. The root justification of the right to life - that is, the transcendent rather than relative right of each human being to live out his or her natural life - is that this right is a free gift of, as Thomas Jefferson claimed, "Nature and Nature's God." This is the same earth in which all of our other cherished civil rights are rooted. The right to exercise the freedom of the press, the freedom of assembly, or the freedom of exercise of religion are other such "natural" rights. The right to life is the cornerstone of justice, it is inscribed in our country's Declaration of Independence, and it was a foundation stone of our Republic.

In ancient days, men were ignorant of biology, the science of life, and they groped darkly with the mechanics of human reproduction. "When did human life begin?" was a question the answer of which was beyond their grasp. Now with the triumph of biology, mankind understands the processes by which an individual comes into being. Biology has demonstrated beyond doubt that life comes from life and life alone, and that for species that reproduce sexually, a new individual comes into being at the moment of conception. After the moment of conception, a new and unique individual exists - exists where there was none before - and nothing is added to him or her save food, air and water. And like always reproduces like: human beings are conceived human beings. Science harbors no doubts but that a newly conceived human being is indeed fully human.

We all know what has come to pass since the days of Jefferson's assertion in the Declaration of Independence of mankind's right to life. Once again in the history of our country, a class of human beings have been declared to be unpersons. Like the Negro and the Native American before him, the Unborn Child, though fully human, has been declared an unperson - property - in the eyes of the law.

The past two decades of Supreme Court decisions have been ones of steady erosion of the right to life. Many of us in the right-to-life movement have ideas about what should be changed; however, few of us have clear ideas on how to bring about these changes. And that fact brings us to the reasons for having college right-to-life groups. Why should we have a college right-to-life group?

The Reasons Why

College, if it does nothing else, prepares young adults for the future. In no estimation, however, is the classroom the only place where this preparation takes place. Athletics, service organizations, campus government, and other extra-curricular activities also play a part. Likewise, the college right-to-life group serves as a training ground. Many of tomorrow's pro-life leaders will come from among the students in today's groups. Here you can learn about the right-to-life movement and about politics, and if in this arena, you make any mistakes, the consequences are much less severe than those in the "real" world.

This is by no means the only reason to have a college right-to-life group. You must realize that many of your peers will be influential people in the world of tomorrow. Not only as politicians, but as doctors, lawyers, priests, engineers, businessmen, and other professionals they will shape our future. Not everyone is college-educated, not by a long shot, but much of our country is run by college graduates, for better or worse.

Thus, it is doubly important for you - while a college student - to stand up among your fellow students and try to educate them. The college right-to-life group may very well be the only voice on campus which teaches the facts about abortion. At most colleges abortion is never discussed in class, and where it is discussed, the pro-abortion biases of most professors make sure that the pro-life viewpoint is poorly presented. In their haste to advocate "freedom of choice" pro-abortionists frequently toss facts and reason to the wind. Your group must be a stronghold of fact and reason if you are to teach your fellows well.

Many claim that college students are more open to new ideas and less biased in their views than others. Don't you believe it! Often college students are just more entrenched in their prejudices. Our right-to-life group at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, found that students often become more close-minded and more apathetic as they progress through college. Posters were defaced or torn down, signs stolen, and members publicly insulted by supposedly enlightened collegians.

Strangely enough, it was high school students and incoming freshmen that we found to be the most receptive and open to the ideas we were presenting. A transformation takes place in the first year of college. Pressured by boyfriends, circumstances, the desire to be accepted, and without a strong support for virginity, a hefty percentage of women become sexually active in their first year of college. Once they are a having sex, fear of pregnancy builds up inside both them and their boyfriends. The result is that many students become much more accepting of abortion, not because they think it is right, but because they look upon it as their last defense against the consequences of their own actions. Having engaged in one immoral activity, premarital sex, they are vulnerable to an even more immoral act, killing an innocent child through abortion. They feel they need abortion to stay in school, to protect their future careers, to insure that they advance socially. This is the reason it is very important for somebody (and that somebody is you) to stand up on the college campus and support the right to life.

Chances are good that several of your members will continue to be active in the movement even after they graduate. If you have any doubts about the importance of this to the pro-life cause, you need only ask some of the older folks who have been struggling for the right to life since before the Roe vs. Wade decisions. You shall be assured that your efforts are vital. Your youth alone will give them a ray of hope in an otherwise cloudy future.

Finally, it is hoped that your group will have some real and immediate effect on the lives of others. This may be as simple as getting a few of your members to write a letter to their Congressman, or to stand in a picket line. Or it might be as complicated as setting up a maternity loan fund in your school (see Chapter Eleven). Then again it might be as important as helping one frightened college-age mother-to-be to decide to spare her unborn child from death by abortion. This is our hope in the college right-to-life movement, and what makes all our work worthwhile. We cannot fail but to do good and vital work, and in the long run that is what really matters.

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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.

Andrew A. Siicree, April 3, 1985.