SFLA Leader Sees Youth Nationwide Embracing Life
Still in her 20s, Kristan Hawkins has quickly become one of the most energetic and effective leaders of the youth pro-life movement. Now in her fifth year as executive director of Students for Life of America – a group committed to ending abortion by educating young people on life issues, training student leaders, and promoting pro-life activities on high school and college campuses – she has seen SFLA grow to more than 620 clubs in 48 states (with plans to add another 100 next year). She and her husband, Jonathan, have two sons and live in West Virginia.
As one who stumbled into the pro-life movement (in high school, she took a summer job at a women’s health center – with no idea what went on there), Hawkins draws great inspiration from the thousands of young people who’ve grasped the realities of abortion a lot sooner than she did.
She’s particularly impressed, she says, with "the level of student activism and dedication – students who stay up all night studying for class, and [still manage to] prepare for a Students for Life event. Even in the face of severe opposition from their administrators or the ‘pro-choice’ group on campus, they are unafraid to stand up for what’s right.
"Sometimes, I think you need a really good dose of healthy optimism," she says. "People who’ve been in the pro-life movement for years sometimes think ‘Nothing will ever change … there’ll always be abortion.’ But when they meet some Students for Life leaders," Hawkins says, "or go to an event, or to our national conference, they get renewed. They see this whole generation of Americans coming alongside of them in this fight."
But youth bring more than enthusiasm to the cause, Hawkins says. "Students have a lot of technical savvy. The pro-life movement is becoming more and more sophisticated with the tools we use, reaching out to new people using online and social media in creative and unique ways.
"Already, we outnumber pro-abortion groups on college campuses," she says. "But we want it to become mainstream. We want this generation to be the leaders in ending abortion. To do that, we’ve got to go where they are, on the high school and college campuses." And ADF is helping with that.
"We’re big fans of ADF ,"Hawkins says. On contacting the ministry for information a few years ago, "I was kind of shocked that this group of lawyers was willing to do research for us for free, and to counsel us, and to help us." Last year, ADF contacted her about co-sponsoring the SFLA national conference – an event that drew nearly 2,000 students last January.
"It’s the largest pro-life conference in the world," Hawkins says. "We are extremely grateful to the entire ADF organization for co-sponsoring our conference and really coming alongside us to help us achieve something the pro-life movement has never seen in its history."