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NRL News
Page 8
April/May 2010
Volume 37
Issue 4-5

Teens for Life Celebrates Its 25th Birthday!

By Joleigh Little

It all started in 1985. A group of teenagers attending the National Right to Life Convention in Washington, D.C. decided that their generation needed a voice in the fight against legalized abortion. They determined then and there to become that voice and Teens for Life was born.

Under the guidance of then-16-year-old John (Jack) St. Martin, the group quickly established itself as the leading youth pro-life organization in the nation, with the full backing and resources of National Right to Life and its state affiliates and local chapters. Early efforts included the annual NTL Congressional Reception and, starting in 1986, an official National Teens for Life Convention held annually in conjunction with the National Right to Life Convention.

Their goal, “to make our generation 100% pro-life,” was laid out in their mission statement. It was a lofty one, to be sure, but now 25 years later we are seeing the fruit of their efforts.

A 2006 Zogby poll of 1,000 high school seniors, conducted in conjunction with Hamilton College, found that 72% of teen girls say they would not consider having an abortion, while 69% of boys the same age would not want their partner to consider abortion. In 2003, a Gallup poll found a full 73% of 13- to 19-year-olds believed that abortion was morally wrong.

Recently, national pro-abortion groups have publicly bemoaned the fact that young people who support abortion are far less passionate than their pro-life counterparts in the same age group.

But obviously we should not measure our success by polls and the laments of our adversaries. In fact, we need look no further than our own local chapters and state affiliates to see that the vision of that early group of pro-life teen pioneers has come to fruition.

More and more states have active Teens for Life groups patterned after the national model. At last count five states have instituted right-to-life summer camps, with more in the works for this summer; many NRLC affiliates have special teen events throughout the year including lobby days at state capitols, rallies, seminars, essay and oratory contests, and conventions; and youth attendance at national events such as the March for Life has reached all-time highs.

With each passing year more and more young people are embracing the ideal that life is precious and worth protecting. And it’s not a new trend—it has been happening, sometimes gradually and sometimes in visible spurts—since that first meeting around a hotel table in 1985.

In fact, the vision of that early group has been carried on by new generations of young people—each year has brought more and more passionate, dedicated, and energetic teens into the fold. And the most rewarding part of the equation is that a passion for life isn’t a passing phase with these teens.

They carry their convictions on to college and beyond into their professional lives. In recent years, for example, graduates of Wisconsin Teens for Life’s summer leadership camps have gone on to become medical and legal professionals, teachers and full-time right-to-life advocates, among other things. We even have one camp graduate who is finishing up her second year of medical school—well on her way to becoming a doctor who will value and respect ALL human life from conception to natural death.

Another interesting note upon marking NTL’s 25th birthday is that a second generation (literally) of teen right-to-life advocates exists because of NTL. Among that initial group of teens who founded the group was one Tricia Rucinski (now Hartwig) whose son, Dylan, is just becoming active in Wisconsin Teens for Life on his own and carrying the message to yet another generation of American children.

It is unusual for an organization started and run by young people to have such a long and impressive track record, but it’s really not a surprise as we all know just how dedicated and passionate pro-life youth are. We are looking forward to another 25 years (and more) of speaking for those who have no voice, of advocating for the medically vulnerable and of making our nation once again a place where every child, born and unborn, is welcomed in life and protected in law.

We can do it—regardless of political opposition—if we continue to work together to build the dream first laid out by that group of teenagers in 1985.

We will continue to speak the truth in love, we will continue to boldly state that abortion hurts everyone, and we will work together toward a day when, like slavery, abortion and euthanasia are things of the past to be reviled—things that have no place in a country as great as the United States of America.

Work with us, will you? If you have, are, or even know of a teenager who would be interested in joining National Teens for Life, please have them e-mail us at jonathan@nrlc.org or jlittle@wrtl.org.

Oh—and we would love to see all of you at our 25th birthday celebration in Pittsburgh this summer from June 24–26 in conjunction (as always) with the National Right to Life Convention! Let this be the year that you add your voice to the chorus of so many others working to protect life!