Sometimes it is tough to be a pro-life college student. Most challenges students face are found on campus during a tabling event or with the administration, but sometimes they are inside the classroom. Far too often when pro-life students dare to speak up in defense of the unborn, professors attempt to humiliate and silence them. [Tweet that!]
I experienced this first hand in a biology class during my freshman year. The class focused on technological advances in the field of biology and the ethical concerns which accompanied the advancements.
My professor, “Dr. Nation,” covered each topic with a series of lectures, and then allowed a discussion day with groups of students representing the pro and con side of the issue for the class, followed by a Q&A portion. After the presentation on embryonic stem cell research, I excitedly got in line to ask my question for the pro-embryonic stem cell research team. They had made a case for the research on the basis that we should take advantage of the embryos instead of just letting them go to waste. This was one of the first times I had the opportunity in college to speak up for the pro-life perspective. I had just returned from my first March for Life and was nervous to challenge the students in front of the class.
Each student in front of me stepped up to ask a clarification question about something from either presentation, and a few challenged the con side. I was the first person to make any sort of case for the pro-life side in the entire semester. My turn came, and I began to ask the students if they would use the same argument to advocate for the intentional destruction of human life in other cases if it would mean biological research could progress. I was about to give a thought experiment example when Dr. Nation cut me off. He had not done this a single time with any of the students that day or in any other discussion days in the entire semester.
I hope that as more groups purchase the Equipped for Life Course, they will be prepared to participate in more outreach events like polling tables. Having a strategic plan in mind and practical supplies on hand can help your event be a greater success. Speaking as the president of a Students for Life (SFL) group that does regular outreach, here are my ten tips:
#1: Code of Conduct Agreement
I highly recommend asking each volunteer to sign a code of conduct agreement prior to arriving at outreach so they know what sort of behavior is expected and prohibited. It can be as simple as a non-violence pledge and the information of an emergency contact. You’ll want to keep these forms in a folder or binder with you at the outreach site in case something goes amiss. It also makes it really easy to respond to angry pro-choice people that say we’re like people who bomb clinics. You can just say, “No, we aren’t,” but it’s more convincing to say, “No, we aren’t, in fact everyone from our club has signed a volunteer agreement stating that they are opposed to violence against abortion practitioners and their facilities.”
If it would help you get started, you can feel free to download the volunteer agreement ERI uses when leading outreaches and edit it however you see fit.
#2: Schedule Volunteer Shifts
You will need to have volunteers sign up for shifts throughout the day, preferably that overlap by 15-30 minute intervals so you can switch out gracefully. Keep in mind that you may run into a situation where several volunteers at a time will be in the middle of dialogues, so try to have as many people scheduled at the event as you can without creating a crowd around the table.
We have exciting news to share for pro-life high school and college clubs! As many of you know, ERI published the Equipped for Life Course last year. It’s designed to help pro-life clubs get trained in dialogue skills and the most persuasive pro-life arguments so they can change more minds and save more lives during their outreaches.
If you haven’t heard about the positive impact the course had on the University of Michigan club, you can check out their report here. (Short version: Their most timid members were begging for weekly outreaches after only completing the first two modules of the course!)
For those of you who are overwhelmed by the thought of fundraising, there is now another way you can get the course. ERI president Josh Brahm spent the last several months asking our donors to pay for scholarships so some pro-life clubs could take the course without spending a dime. We’ve already given six scholarships away, and as of today we still have the funds left for 68 scholarships!
If you’re interested in getting the Equipped for Life course for free, and you’re willing to commit to getting your club through the course and doing at least one outreach within three months, go to EqualRightsInstitute.com/Apply and fill out the quick application.
Do you know of a club that may be interested in this offer? Please send them a link to this offer! This course can really help a club change more minds about abortion and save more lives, and if they apply soon enough, they can get the course without spending a dime!
Every other Tuesday we publish a new episode of the Equipped for Life Podcast, available to everyone who purchases our course, “Equipped for Life: A Fresh Approach to Conversations about Abortion.” Generally these podcast episodes won’t be available to the general public, but we plan on occasionally making exceptions, and we’ve decided to make our 11th episode the first one we make available to everybody.
This is the first part in a two-part series on practical sidewalk counseling tips, from the person who has impressed me most with the way he thinks about decision making in front of abortion facilities, our Operations Coordinator Jacob Nels.
It has been a transformative year at Equal Rights Institute.
In our second full year as an organization we gave 27 speeches in Illinois, California, Missouri, Massachusetts, Michigan, Virginia, Colorado, North Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York, and Washington, DC! Thanks to some great logistical planning from Jacob Nels, we also did five full-day seminars in California, Michigan, and Virginia. All in all we trained approximately 1,377 people!
It’s easy to think of these people as statistics. We have gotten fantastic responses from the students we have spoken to. Here’s just one testimonial from Anthony Jones, the Vice President of Robinson Rams for Life, a high school Students for Life club that I spoke to recently while in the DC area:
Mr. Brahm brought clarity, enthusiasm, and a fresh perspective to our club in regards to the pro-life position. Although some of us had previous experience in defending life, the presentation enhanced everyone’s knowledge and gave us greater confidence to dialogue persuasively. Students came into the event with varying beliefs about abortion, but they all left with the common knowledge of a logical and charitable approach that championed equal rights. Once Mr. Brahm had concluded, one student exclaimed: ‘That was the best pro-life argument I’ve ever heard,’ already confirming that the presentation had made a tangible difference in equipping our club to accomplish its mission more effectively than ever before.