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.
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
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
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
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.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!