October 17, 2014

Students for Life president Kristan Hawkins shares experiences about counseling teens and invading Planned Parenthood

Kristan Hawkins delivers the keynote address during Right to Life of Indianapolis’ Celebrate Life dinner on Sept. 30 in Indianapolis. Hawkins, president of the Students for Life of America, spoke with The Criterion about her pro-life background and efforts. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Kristan Hawkins delivers the keynote address during Right to Life of Indianapolis’ Celebrate Life dinner on Sept. 30 in Indianapolis. Hawkins, president of the Students for Life of America, spoke with The Criterion about her pro-life background and efforts. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

Kristan Hawkins, 29, has been president of Students for Life of American since 2006. But the mother of three boys ages 5 and under—with a child on the way—has been active in the pro-life movement since her sophomore year in high school in the late 1990s.

She has started pro-life groups in high school and college, organized a coalition against federal funding of abortions, written a book, grown the Students for Life of America from around 200 groups to more than 800 groups, and is a national leader in the fight for the sanctity of all life.

Hawkins, who lives with her husband and children near Minneapolis, Minn., just started the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) process to become Catholic. The couple recently moved to Minnesota to be close to the best medical care for their 5-year-old son, Gunner, who has cystic fibrosis.

She spoke with The Criterion prior to delivering her keynote address at Right to Life of Indianapolis’ 32nd Celebrate Life dinner at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis on Sept. 30.

Q. Did you grow up in a pro-life household?

A. “I grew up in West Virginia across the river from Ohio, south of Pittsburgh. My mom was pro-life, my [non-denominational] church was pro-life. Unfortunately, we didn’t really talk about abortion that much. I remember a couple of times when I was little going to parades and being on the Life Saver float.

“When I entered high school, I thought, ‘Yeah, I’m pro-life, but with exceptions.’ It really wasn’t until I started volunteering at a Catholic pregnancy resource center that I was really told the truth about abortion, what it was, how it hurt women. I really became pro-life at that point.”

Q. As a sophomore in high school, you counseled teens at a pregnancy center. How difficult was that?

A. “It was hard. A lot of times, pregnancy resource centers don’t want teens counseling other teens, but our center director thought that because I was the same age, and even sadly older than some of the girls who walked in, that they would see me more as a peer. So I had to learn everything about abortion, about STD’s [sexually transmitted diseases]. It was a challenging summer, but one that completely changed my life and the focus on what I thought God had intended for me.”

Q. Can you share anything about your experiences going undercover into Planned Parenthood?

A. “I was pregnant with my first son. I went in and told them I was 23 weeks pregnant, that I thought my son was diagnosed with Down syndrome, what could I do, I was new to town.

“I asked them, ‘If I decide to keep the baby, where can I go? I’m new, I don’t have a doctor.’ They had no OB [obstetrician] referrals. They had no information about prenatal vitamins. No information about adoption. No information about fetal development. Even I was shocked as a pro-life advocate that they had absolutely nothing for you besides abortion and birth control. That was it. There was nothing if you decided to keep the child.

“These were federally funded, Title X Planned Parenthoods in the state of New Jersey. And my son doesn’t have Down syndrome, but I kind of used that as a way to get them talking about resources and support.

“One time, I had the nurse practitioner who performs the abortion actually tell me, ‘Oh, no way the baby feels pain.’ I had another Planned Parenthood facility tell me the way they would abort the child was to birth it, and he might breathe for a few minutes but then he would die—which is infanticide and very illegal. She and the Planned Parenthood seem to feel that’s an acceptable abortion procedure.”

Q. What do you encourage the average teen or adult to do in the fight against abortion?

A. “The first thing is that people, especially adults who have been in this fight for decades, don’t actually believe it’s a winnable fight. I ask people to envision a nation without abortion. Envision that we’ve already reached our goal. … Until you reach that point, you’re never going to win.

“Second, move from telling to doing. Your family knows what abortion is. They’ve heard you talk about it, they’ve seen your bumper stickers. Now ask them to actually join you in this fight.

“Then the final part is continuing to influence the culture by providing the resources that we’re going to need when there are no more abortions in Indiana.

“There’s going to be a day very soon where Indiana will not have an abortion facility. That means we need a lot of resources for pregnant and parenting women because we know no woman ever chooses abortion—she feels like she has no other choice.

“So you can reduce demand for abortion instantly if you can provide the resources and show her there is a way out of that tunnel of desperation.”

Q. Do you see evidence that the pro-life cause is taking the lead?

A. “We are definitely winning. If you look at the polls, we’re winning. Look at the legislation that’s been passed in the last three years—it’s more than what’s been passed in the last decade. Eighty abortion centers have closed down, even [one] here in Indianapolis. We’re definitely winning the fight. People definitely understand that abortion is a bad thing. People know it’s not good for women.

“The challenge we’re faced with now, and we spend a lot of time talking with students about this, is moving people from saying abortion is bad to actually doing something, and saying it’s so bad it should be illegal. That’s what we focus a lot of our outreach and efforts on.”

Q. Why is it so important for students to take action?

A. “It’s extremely important because this is where the abortion industry targets. Seventy-nine percent of Planned Parenthoods are five miles from a college campus. They are literally targeting this generation. First, they targeted them for abortion when they were in the womb. And now they’ve come back to them to target them again. …

“This is why they need to be talking about it with their peers. We know that peers trust their peers more than adults coming in from outside the campus.”

(For more information about Students for Life of America, visit http://studentsforlife.org .)

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