When Kristan Hawkins started talking at Thursday’s New Hampshire Right to Life annual dinner, I did everything I could to get a photo of her. About twenty shots later, I gave up and settled for the blurry images I’d managed to capture. It was like trying to pin down a whirlwind. Calm down, I wanted to tell her, although that would have been pointless. Her dynamism is undoubtedly part of her success.
“I am an abortion abolitionist.”
Hawkins is executive director of Students for Life of America, where she has worked since 2006. With her team, she has helped to establish 759 SFLA chapters on campuses nationwide in response to demand from students. Her energy and commitment were visible from the podium as she spoke in an urgent voice, her head turning almost constantly as though she were determined to make eye contact with every person in the room. The crowd of nearly 400 included about 125 high school and college students with a special interest in Hawkins’ ministry. Former Congressman Frank Guinta was in the audience as well. He recently announced that he’s running again for the First District seat now held by Carol Shea-Porter.
“I am an abortion abolitionist,” said Hawkins. “We are more pro-life than [our parents’] generation.” Demand for SFLA services exceeds supply; “this is a good problem.” SFLA provides materials to pro-life student groups upon request for use on campuses and in classrooms nationwide. Projects within the SFLA campus groups range from literature distribution to installation of large outdoor displays.
Sometimes, those pro-life displays are vandalized. She says that doesn’t put an end to pro-life activism, as students continue to “share the truth.”
Students from at least four New Hampshire colleges attended the banquet. Dartmouth, Thomas More College, the College of Saint Mary Magdalen, and St. Anselm were all represented. Younger students from area high schools as well as homeschooled teens were also present. Hawkins was scheduled for a speaking engagement at St. Anselm the day after the banquet; she makes a point of speaking on campuses whenever possible.
“Be the annoying person.”
“Be the annoying person,” urged Hawkins. “When we talk about abortion, we win.” Abortion advocacy groups – and this includes Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and EMILY’s List, among others – are dropping the word “abortion” from their lexicon in favor of the less abrasive “reproductive rights.” The general public has grown disgusted with unlimited abortion, to the extent that seventy pieces of pro-life legislation have passed in various states in 2013.
“The new strategy [by abortion advocacy groups] is, don’t talk about abortion. So what should we do? Talk about abortion. I am proud to say that I am anti-abortion.”
The dinner and Hawkins’ speech ran a little behind schedule as a larger-than-expected crowd waited to be seated. I spent time on the NHRTL board over a decade ago, and I never saw a larger crowd at the group’s annual dinner, or one with such a significant proportion of students. Hawkins and her message were clearly a draw.
Kristan’s five-point plan
Hawkins has a plan of action that she urged on her listeners. Some of the five steps she recommends are familiar things that bear repeating.
- “Tell our stories. Share the truth.”
- “Envision a world without abortion, don’t just imagine it.” She admonished her listeners not to give in to the attitude that pro-life work is important but success is unlikely. “Plan for a future without abortion. Know what you’re going to do after abortion is abolished.”
- Base pro-life ministry on personal relationships with people in need of support in moments of crisis. “It’s messy work.”
- Expose Planned Parenthood, “our nation’s abortion Goliath, the Walmart of the abortion industry,” particularly by keeping a close eye on the sources of its funds. She commended NHRTL for bringing PP of Northern New England to court in an effort to force transparency in the use of public funds.
- “It’s time to start talking about abortion in our churches.” She knows too well that many pastors are uncomfortable with the abortion battle and therefore don’t talk about it from the pulpit.
SFLA’s biggest annual event is a conference in Washington the day before the annual March for Life. Last January’s event attracted 2000 participants, which doesn’t surprise me.