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Person of Interest
As the founder and president of Live Action (www.liveaction.org), Lila Rose has been battling Planned Parenthood and others in the abortion industry for years. What started as a pro-life club for her then-teenage friends has become a national organization. Live Action leads investigative campaigns to expose the abortion industry, and provides education to reveal the humanity of preborn children. Posing in undercover videos herself, Rose helped expose Planned Parenthood for not reporting suspected statutory rape and sexual abuse.
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Given the horrific undercover videos recently released by the Center for Medical Progress revealing the sale of fetal body parts by Planned Parenthood, Salvo thought it would be a good time to speak with Rose about the current state of the pro-life movement, how she thinks millennials view abortion, and what continues to drive her.
Marcia Segelstein: What was most shocking to you in the undercover videos made by the Center for Medical Progress? Or did none of it surprise you?
Lila Rose: We've known about the trafficking of the body parts of children for years now, so it wasn't surprising. But it's always heartbreaking and deeply disturbing to see it and hear it again. Even after being involved in this movement for twelve years, it still moves me deeply when I have an encounter with the violence that's done to children we're trying to protect and the heartache it causes families, mothers, all of society. The videos are deeply moving and horrific, but it's something that we've known about for years.
How important do you think these videos are or will be in terms of making an impact for the pro-life movement?
I think these videos exposing Planned Parenthood chopping up the body parts of children they kill are extremely powerful. I think they are incredibly moving to millions of people. It's a watershed moment for our movement to move forward. This should be the final nail in the coffin of Planned Parenthood, but we need to not let up on our efforts and to push the momentum forward.
I was going to ask if you thought it could be a tipping point. Beyond changing hearts and minds, what would you like to see happen as a result of the videos?
I think it's a tipping point in a series of tipping points. Abortion and the industry that supports abortion weren't built in a day, and it's going to take a lot of perseverance and endurance to fight this fight. We have to make the most of this moment that we're having collectively, this horrific encounter with the human life that's being destroyed violently in these facilities and then sold piecemeal. It must result not only in Congressional action and investigation, but in the prosecution of the criminal activities that are taking place. And there should be immediate defunding of Planned Parenthood. It's an uphill battle because we're dealing with pro-abortion lobbyists who have won over politicians largely in the Senate, and who are fighting tooth and nail to prevent any money being stripped from Planned Parenthood. So we have to overcome the abortion lobby's deep entrenchment on Capitol Hill. But I think it's within reach.
Overall, abortion numbers are going down. What do you think are the reasons for that, and what can the pro-life movement learn as a result?
I think that connecting women to the resources they need and the support networks they need when they're facing an unexpected pregnancy is crucial. There have been some amazing developments in that regard in the last several years with the increase in the number of pregnancy care centers. Groups out there like Online for Life and others are providing connecting points between women and the support networks they need. That's crucial.
Another important piece is education. So Live Action, for example, is reaching ten million people a week through online media with the compelling truth about the violence of abortion and the humanity of the child. And people are reporting that they've changed their minds about abortion as a result. So it means the education front is crucial.
And then the third piece of it is what we're doing to regulate and shut down the abortion industry. We have abortion facilities, led largely by Planned Parenthood, all across the country preying on women at some of the most vulnerable moments of their lives. We need to make efforts to stop the funding of these abortion facilities and make sure they're following the state laws that pro-lifers have fought to put in place.
Following up on that, in some states where laws were passed simply tightening regulations, it seems to have made a dramatic difference.
Yes. Clearly in Texas, where the law says abortion facilities need to at least have a doctor with visiting privileges at local hospitals, and need to be prepared for emergency situations with hallways wide enough for stretchers—commonsense things—I think that approach has been fruitful. It has helped shut down abortion facilities in other states. And that, in turn, limits the number of abortions.
There are also indications that millennials are more ambivalent about abortion than older generations. Why do you think that is?
I don't think they're ambivalent.
What do you think?
Among those who are polling pro-life, one of the most substantial demographics is the millennials. And I think that's really meaningful. If you look at Live Action's one-million-strong network on Facebook, the majority of those are millennials. It's very striking in the movement to see how young the pro-life movement is. We're talking about hundreds of thousands, millions of people involved. And when you look at the demographics, it's largely made up of millennials. This is a young movement. Young people are already passionate about human rights issues today. They have a deep sense of empathy for those who are in need, and I think with the help of social media we can feel connected to people who aren't next door to us in a way that we couldn't before. It's opening our eyes to the plights of people beyond us. I think the pro-life movement, when we're able to connect the dots for people, to educate them that it's a life in the womb, that abortion is violence against that life, and that it's against the dignity and empowerment of a women—that's an extremely attractive message to millennials.
You were interviewed by Salvo about five years ago. You spoke then about the importance of practicing the virtue of hope. Five years later, do you think there's perhaps even more reason to be hopeful?
Yes, absolutely! In the last five years our achievements as a movement in saving lives and changing hearts and minds have been incredible. We get dozens of testimonials in any given week or month from people who say they've changed their minds because of our educational content, our investigative videos, or that they've chosen to have their baby and not have an abortion. So we get to hear about the fruit of our work, and that's just from the people who take the time to reach out and tell us. We are incredibly encouraged and determined to persevere until we've reached every person with the truth about abortion and the dignity of the person, and until we've had the opportunity to reach every woman in crisis before that crisis comes to a head. On the political front, in the last five years we've seen historic gains compared to the dozens of years prior. Incredible progress has been made legislatively on the state level in many cases.
How can the average person help promote a culture of life?
If you're a person of faith, I think the first thing is to pray and ask God to use you to help save lives and to protect the weak. Everybody has a different role to play, but everyone has a role to play. The pro-life cause is really the cause for the culture of life, which is the culture of Christ. It's a culture that sees God in our neighbors, that understands that dignity is not to be violated, especially for those who are weak and in need of protection.
The second thing is to educate yourself. The Live Action Facebook page provides information and updates on what's happening in the pro-life movement. So get educated and don't be afraid to start sharing that education with other people.
The third thing is to find some way in your community to get involved. If you're part of a parish or church, find out if there's a pro-life ministry happening there. If not, ask why not. First and foremost as a community we have to make sure we are providing resources and care for women in crisis pregnancy situations. Maybe there are local youth education groups that you can encourage or be part of. Get involved with 40 Days for Life. Go and pray outside an abortion facility. There are plenty of ways to get involved.
How does your faith inform what you do?
What's so beautiful about our movement is that standing up for human rights and for the weak is something that people from any faith background, really any worldview that believes in justice and love, can come around and support. As a Christian, my faith is the most important thing to me. At the end of the day, we might only have one day left to live. We're not promised tomorrow. So it's my hope in doing this work to draw closer to our Lord and to become more like him and to learn from his heart and from his love and to do the best I can with the day I'm given. That's how I look at it. This work is part of my path, part of many people's path, to drawing closer to God and to loving the people he loves. I take it one day at a time, and think about how I can love today, how can I serve today. •
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