By: Emily Conley
Lila Rose is the founder and CEO of Live Action, a media and news nonprofit dedicated to ending abortion and inspiring a culture that respects all human life. Lila took time out of her busy schedule to tell me how she started Live Action at the age of 15, and what she hopes to accomplish before turning 30.
Faith & Justice: What inspired you at 15 to go so far as forming your own organization?
Lila Rose: Right before starting Live Action, I looked for another pro-life group to join in the Bay Area, where I'm from, and there wasn't any other group doing pro-life education, especially in churches. The abortion rate was similar in the evangelical community in the Protestant church (and at the time, I was Protestant) as it was in the secular world, according to some of the surveying that had been done. So I wanted very strongly to do something to educate.
And I also grew up in a pro-life home. I'm one of eight kids, and my parents were, of course, pro-life. They weren't necessarily activists, but we were homeschooled, and when I found out about abortion as a young girl, I came across a book called A Handbook on Abortion. I was around the age of nine, and it had images of children who had been killed by first trimester abortion in the book. And I remember just being deeply moved, and heartbroken, and wondering, "How is this happening? Is this really happening in our country?" And when I learned that it was legal and as prevalent as 3,000 abortions a day, and that this was somehow done in the name of women's rights, I just thought, “I have to do something about this.”
F&J: Did you approach your parents with the idea that "I want to start an organization called Live Action" and they helped you get it off the ground? How did that go?
LR: Well, it started very simply. I called around to other California-based pro-life groups that were not in the Bay Area to see if there was a model I could copy or I could learn from other groups. My parents were very generous in the sense that they allowed us to pursue our passions, and so they generously said I could have Live Action meet at their home. And it was a really small start, I mean, basically getting together with some friends and starting to train ourselves how to educate other people on the pro-life issue and how to give presentations to other students explaining what abortion was and about the dignity of human life. Years later, I would receive other support from friends and ultimately donors to help enable us to file for non-profit status and set the course for the work that we've done in the last 10 years.
F&J: With growing up with a large family, did your family encourage you to connect your faith to taking action?
LR: My parents were very generous people in the way that they homeschooled us, the education they provided us, and being one of eight kids, they were very generous with life. And I think it was just sort of an innate way that we were brought up to be, to be generous, to allow ourselves to be passionate and to find ways that we could serve. My family's home growing up was always a revolving door. My parents always had folks in the home that they were helping or they were helping educate, or we were serving. And we were involved in different service projects in our community, so that there was always that sense of, "The sky's the limit," and we have a responsibility to serve and to love others. So I think that was certainly the groundwork from which I was confident to try to start something even though it was very small at first.
F&J: You've been named among Red Alert’s “30 under 30,” National Journal’s “25 Most Influential Washington Women Under 35,” and Christianity Today’s “33 under Thirty-Three.” What are you most proud of accomplishing so far?
LR: When it comes to what I'm most proud of, I think the moments that have been the most powerful for me have been the moments when we've heard people saying, "I didn't have an abortion because we saw your video, or through the news article I read, or the story that I saw." Or when people say, "You totally changed my mind." And we hear that all the time. And that's why we're doing this, you know, this is a quest to transform hearts and remind people what they know deep down and to show them that it's not an either/or. It's not that we have to denigrate women, or we have to have miserable lives in order to be pro-life, but that pro-life is a pathway to everyone being more full of joy and peace, and everyone being more truly alive.
F&J: What do you think has been key for you in accomplishing so much with Live Action?
LR: None of this happens alone, so it has been people that have come alongside me, and believed in Live Action, and donated. It has been because of people who have joined my team and who've believed in what we're doing and how we do it and have put their heart and souls into it. It has been because of my family loving me unconditionally. It's been people that have come alongside me and supported Live Action financially, with their prayers, with their talents, and most of all, because of God. I mean, I say anything good we do, God helped make it happen. And if it wasn't that great, then it's probably what I was doing in my own strength! I believe that this is God's cause, to protect His children. I think God is intimately involved in the affairs of humankind. And I pray and trust that He works through our efforts to do good for others.
F&J: Are there things that you hope to accomplish still before 30?
LR: [Laughs] I know, I'm 30 next summer. Well, I would definitely like to see abortion become unthinkable in this country, and to see the laws changed to protect human life. And we're making big steps to get there, and anything's possible, so we're going to just work really heard in the next six months to continue to achieve that. I want to continue to see the momentum grow. The momentum's growing online with the media that we've put out. The momentum's growing with our team and the incredible ideas that we come up with, ways to shift people's opinions and hearts. We're trying to raise capital for the major advertising campaigns that we believe are going to help move the needle. So I just want to see that momentum continue to grow and continue to see all the hearts and minds and lives that will be touched.
F&J: What would you say has been maybe the greatest source of frustration so far in your pro-life work?
LR: I think the greatest source of frustration for me personally is when I see missed opportunities. We do our best at Live Action to make the most of every opportunity and to create new opportunities and momentum, but I look out across our country and I see so many ways that we could do more, as a movement. And I think's that's most frustrating, the sense of impatience. I want to do more, but we're not ready yet, or we don't have the resourcing yet, or whatever it is. We pray, and I trust God that it will happen in His timing and that I just have to try to do my best with what I'm given each day.
Read more of Lila’s interview in this issue of Faith & Justice magazine!