Early in the morning on Jan. 28, over 40 bleary-eyed but enthusiastic UD students from Crusaders for Life (CFL) crowded onto a bus to Austin to attend the Austin March for Life and participate in the Boots on the Ground Pro-Life convention.
The convention is hosted by Texas Students for Life and supported by Texas Right to Life on the University of Texas at Austin campus.
The slogan and theme of the convention was “Embrace Diversity,” — an apt name, since students from several Christian and secular Texan universities had the opportunity to encounter viewpoints from all sides of the pro-life movement.
Upon disembarking from the bus at the UT Austin campus, marchers reported being passed by masked protesters, carrying bullhorns and sporting signs that told pro-lifers to get off the campus.
“Nobody seemed particularly bothered, and in fact it fired many of us up a bit more for what we were about to do,” CFL President Teresa Roach said.
Events of the Boots on the Ground conference included talks, games and social opportunities.
On Sunday morning, Mass and a non-denominational prayer service were offered.
The conference commenced Saturday afternoon on the UT Austin campus and finished at an Embassy Suites nearby.
A host of speakers, from varying ideological and political backgrounds, addressed the conference. The talks dealt with a variety of subjects, from the need to end the socio-economic reasons that pressure women to have abortions, to the importance of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration in counselling parents facing crisis pregnancies, to making college campuses more friendly to undergraduate parents.
Apostle Claver Kamau-Imani, founder and chairman of the conservative website RagingElephants.org pointed out Planned Parenthood’s targeting of the African American community and the need for black voters to stand up to the societal pressure to vote for pro-choice politicians.
Cecilia Brown, President of the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians,emphasized the importance of finding common ground when discussing abortion, outlining “Rules of Common Engagement” for effective conversations which deal with each individual instead of a group.
In her talk, “Why Pro-Lifers Must Defeat Cultural Marxism – and How to Do It,” cultural commentator and blogger Kristen Hatten brought up some of the first causes of abortion in America, pointing out that abortion is a small piece of a larger cultural picture, and how abortion is anti-individual because it is willing to sacrifice an innocent for an imaginary greater good.
As a solution to the larger problem, Hatten proposed doing one’s own research on life issues, cultural history, and gender politics statistics as well as founding clubs on college campuses that break the cultural narrative.
Several Crusaders also appreciated the friendship-forming quality of the March and Conference.
Anastasia Wilhelm, Prayerful Presence Coordinator for CFL, described her experience, saying, “I got to go with a lot of my good friends that were freshmen, and then [at] the actual march itself, it was pretty fantastic to see a sea of people marching in front of you, all for the same thing.”
In the words of Andrew Collart, Politics Officer for CFL, “There is a great feeling of togetherness that comes from doing something worthwhile together! Then, seeing all the other college students from across Texas who also attended made me really proud of our generation – that we all want to see an end to the hidden holocaust of abortion and, instead, real life-affirming help offered to women in crisis pregnancies.”
The conference concluded with an awards ceremony, with awards for university pro-life clubs and individual students.
Crusaders for Life earned “Sit Down, Wendy Davis” for Most Politically Active College Group and “Teacher’s Pet” – Award for Highest Attendance at Boots on the Ground.
“Unsung Hero” was awarded to Andrew Collart. According to Texas Right to Life website, “Andrew keeps the club informed about Pro-Life political updates. He is one of the most reliable members of the group, often reminding the group’s president of upcoming events.”
Teresa Roach appreciated the opportunity to bring different sides of the pro-life cause together. “We have enough opposition to overcome without creating more [opposition] within our own movement,” she said.
Members of Crusader for Life saw this as a kick-off to a successful 2017.
“A wide range of speakers helped in understanding how different people you might meet will be able to relate to the Pro-Life cause,” Collart said. “It was good to see that, despite different backgrounds and sets of values, people are able to find common ground in recognizing that the right to life is sacred!”