By Maggie Olander
In June 2016, Students for Life of America released a poll that questioned 803 students across the nation. Focused on pro-life matters, the data indicated that 53 percent of millennials say that abortion should be illegal in most cases. However, only 36 percent of the former number identify as pro-life (Ertelt par.7). As the up-and-coming generation, the rising brilliant minds, the future adults who will guide our country, students must decide where we stand. Being pro-life is not just celebrating the first date on a tombstone, it’s not hastening the end date. It means fiercely defending, eternally loving, and resolutely caring all through the simple dash on that tombstone that represents the gift of life. Students must be part of that 36 percent who declare that they are supporters of the greatest of gifts, living out their convictions in whatever way is given to them.
When pro-life topics appear in conversation, the media, or one’s personal beliefs, the majority of the time they are centered on being anti-abortion. In fact, that is how the American Heritage Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, and the Cambridge English Dictionary all define the term “pro-life”: in similar form to “opposed to abortion.” Yet when pro-life is delved into in every way, shape, and form, it becomes clear that abortion is not the singular issue. What about physician-assisted suicide? Embryonic stem cell research? In vitro fertilization? Don’t forget about birth control or adoption. Each one of these is a full part of the argument of what defines pro-life; it becomes convoluted when each person holds different views on each of those subjects. Although abortion is beyond tragic, it is not the only topic that should be entailed in our pro-life definitions.
Let’s say abortion is the only issue related to pro-life, so we campaign and hold signs and counsel mothers and pray, and a baby’s life is rescued from the wiles of Planned Parenthood and the like. That is wonderful news, yes. But what is going to happen after the birth? Those moms need support, either to offer their child a life with them or with another adoptive family. Blessed to grow up among such families, I have observed on a regular basis the challenges, the strenuous processes, and, most significantly, the perpetual love from my friends that has resulted from these kids whose moms are unable or unwilling to care for them properly. I have babysat two little boys, both of whom have multiple special requirements—such as a trach, feeding tubes, and the inability to walk on their own or even speak. Through something as simple as babysitting, I demonstrated my pro-life convictions by aiding a family that has been visibly pro-life by bringing these boys into their family, boys who otherwise would not receive the love and care they require. Actions do not always have to make a direct impact; in fact, students legally cannot do much of what adults can. Therefore, seemingly small steps in assisting the pro-life movement are what is available. I participate in our local pregnancy center’s Life Walk, showing my support of what they do as we walk through town. I have baked brownies, cookies, and pumpkin cake for their fall banquet, which raises money for the center. I have joyfully attended adoption parties for friends who have at long last concluded the lengthy adoption process. I have overlooked the disobedient or inconvenient actions of adopted friends because they have struggled through things I have not. Due to our stage in life, students may have to resort to actions that feel as though they have no impact. Yet if babysitting, baking, and serving friends can be pro-life deeds, how much more is there that we can do to stand for not only purging abortion, but for providing life after birth?
When the Native Americans dwelt in this country centuries ago, respect and care for the elders was one of the central points of their society. In a modern world where the elderly are frequently seen as a burden, the Indians set a valuable example. Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, and Huntington’s are all degenerative, incurable, drawn-out maladies which scientists estimate will affect 12 million Americans in the next 30 years if solutions are not found (Challenge study par. 2). Those diseases target people 60-65 years old—the age of an elder. Because my paternal grandfather is a victim of such an infirmity, those statistics strike close to home. My family, specifically my parents, sacrifices daily to care for him. Admittedly, it’s not easy. It’s not always what we want to do. But being pro-life is not all about babies. It’s about the end of life as well. Whether I am cleaning his apartment or answering his confused phone calls, I have this chance to respect him as a human being who did not choose to lose his memory. I can help my mom take him shopping. I can practice my piano skills while he sits nearby because he enjoys listening. Oftentimes, aging people are more difficult than babies, but they are still alive—alive and living as a human being who deserves respect.
“The so-called right to abortion has . . . portrayed the greatest of gifts—a child—as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience.” Truly words of wisdom, those were spoken by Mother Teresa. Although she refers directly to children, the concept of the quote is applicable to ALL of life; the mere stage is not significant. Ronald Reagan once quoted: “Facts are stubborn things,” and the undeniable facts are that a baby is human. A student is human. A grandparent is human. They are not an object, obstructing our perfect lives. The foundation that the United States was built on declares every person is “created equal” with “unalienable rights,” specifically “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” As students, our actions may seem small. But, no matter their magnitude, it is our duty to protect, applaud, and abet that first right as firmly, genuinely pro-life advocates.
Maggie Olander won an honorable mention in Category 2 of CLSP and IEW's Pro-Life Essay Contest.