If pro-life activists truly want to bring about an end to abortion, they need to start sharing their personal stories related to abortion, according to Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students For Life of America.
"We all have experiences with abortion. Maybe we have brothers and sisters who have had abortions, maybe we’re missing brothers and sisters because of abortion, or we have a friend who had an abortion or we drove a friend to get an abortion," explained Hawkins, who was the keynote speaker at the Nov. 15 annual fundraising banquet for Pregnancy Care Center of the Finger Lakes.
Pregnancy Care Center of the Finger Lakes has locations in Geneva, Auburn, Canandaigua and Penn Yan and has been helping pregnant women and new mothers for 19 years, according to Tricia Button, the center’s executive director. The staff and volunteers of such pregnancy-care centers are good at sharing personal stories about abortion and by doing so, talking to pregnant women about what abortion really means, Hawkins noted.
Hawkins’ own personal story related to abortion began when she was 15 and took a three-month volunteer position at a crisis-pregnancy center. The women who worked at the center wanted Hawkins to counsel pregnant young women who were trying to decide whether to terminate their pregnancies, but Hawkins felt unprepared because the topic of abortion hadn’t come up much in her church or her school.
"My first day my whole life changed. I had to learn everything I could about abortion, abstinence and STDs as quickly as I could," Hawkins recalled.
She was appalled when she saw pictures of "fully formed human babies" who’d been aborted.
"I thought, ‘What is going on here? How are we letting that happen?’" she added.
Those same feelings of horror and disgust are still the driving force behind Hawkins’ efforts to end abortion. Hawkins, who has been executive director of SFLA since 2006, travels around the country speaking to pro-life groups on college campuses and in the broader community. Earlier this year she authored Courage: Students Abolishing Abortion in This Lifetime, which shares stories told to her by 12 young people. Some of these people decided to have abortions and others decided not to. Some shared their experiences helping friends who had abortions, and others shared stories about adoption. This book is useful, she said, because it helps older adults understand young people’s perspectives about abortion. When counselors and activists don’t think they have their own abortion stories, Hawkins encourages them to share stories they read in the book and found particularly compelling.
The counselors at such centers as Pregnancy Care Center of the Finger Lakes are well poised to share their stories because they often develop long-term relationships with the pregnant women who come to them for help, Hawkins added. The center’s counselors meet with hundreds of women each year, Button said, and some of those women will remain clients for three to five years. Counselors not only offer pregnant women information about parenting, adoption and abortion, but they also offer parenting classes and classes for women who’d like to earn their general equivalency diplomas. The center’s staff members do not perform or refer women for abortions, but they do try to find out what other needs the women have and connect them to appropriate resources in the community, Button said.
"We do want to meet their (immediate) need, but that need is not the only need they have at that time. Building relationships is very important to us," Button said.
Caring for a woman in a crisis pregnancy is about more than just serving that woman in her moment of need, Hawkins agreed. It’s important to "meet her where she’s at" and help her repair any broken relationships she might have, she said, noting that most women who are considering abortion have a broken relationship somewhere in their history, usually with a parent or significant other.
"Real social justice is about building a relationship and repairing broken relationships. We need to start seeking real social-justice relationships with those who are hurting," Hawkins said.
Hawkins told the pro-lifers at the Nov. 15 banquet that the young people of today are more pro-life than any other generation, and that there is good news coming out of the pro-life movement. Pro-life activist Colleen Spellecy, who belongs to St. Francis and St. Clare Parish in Waterloo and Seneca Falls, said she was encouraged when Hawkins told banquet attendees there are more crisis-pregnancy centers than Planned Parenthood clinics in America, and that in the past three years more than 100 pieces of pro-life legislation have been introduced in states across the nation.
"Those hopeful signs were the things that were really touching to me," Spellecy said.