Marching for Life Through Occupied Washington
An interview with Kristan Hawkins, President of Students for Life of America
Stream Senior Editor John Zmirak worried in these pages about the impact on the pro-life movement of the changes in the uplifting annual March for Life. This after its organizers canceled its annual rally and made most of the March virtual, citing COVID concerns, and the moral panic induced by the fracas at the US Capitol on January 6. He decided to interview one of his favorite pro-life leaders, Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life of America, on this year’s event.
John Zmirak: How was the experience of the March for Life different this year from previous years?
Kristan Hawkins: This year’s remembrance of a national tragedy — almost 50 years of allowing infants in the womb to die by abortion — was a somber and sad occasion. We missed not just the more than 60 million pre-born we’ve lost, but the mourners as well. People couldn’t see in what little was shown in the media the vitality of the Pro-Life Generation. It was a real loss to have their voices silenced in this moment. Especially as a new administration prepares to force abortion extremism on all of us.
And the city itself has also undergone a troubling transformation. Marching up Constitution in a much smaller group, we passed armed troops and metal walls with razor wire. This made it clear that we didn’t even have access to our government and were not welcome. It’s going to change this country if elites hide behind steel walls and tell people to go away.
Instead of staying in a hotel full of happy voices as in previous years, the few of us in Washington were surrounded by the tired and grim National Guard soldiers doing their duty. Our nation’s Capital was more army camp than the seat of democracy. A very scaled-down event served as a good reminder that the heart of this nation isn’t just in the Capitol.
The heart of this movement and this nation is spread far and wide. It’s in states, communities and families where ordinary people do the hard daily work of caring for others. But in a truly quiet and closed down city, I missed the presence of the Pro-Life Generation.
Will D.C. Ever Let the March Happen Again?
Are you confident that canceling the traditional rally and making most of the March virtual won’t set a precedent, emboldening the Washington mayor to prevent the return of the March next year?
I don’t think this is going to stop the pro-life movement, but I could see, looking through barbed wires and around temporary walls, that some of the leaders in government want to make it permanently hard for people to assemble and to present their grievances to elected officials. Some politicians don’t really want to allow us to lobby Congress anymore.
Before the downscaled March, SFLA sponsored a Life Chain in Arlington, VA, in sight of the U.S. Capitol and in almost 20 cities around the country. While we were there, two officers asked to see our permit and then asked that we have most of the people leave, because more young people had shown up than that piece of paper allowed. Though peacefully standing outside, wearing masks and social distancing, still that wasn’t enough for officials to decide how many would be “allowed” to stand for life.
My fear is that every year from now on the political leadership in Washington will come up with excuses to prevent the Pro-Life Generation from reminding our nation that the injustice of abortion has not been forgotten.
Consider this time-lapsed video from last year of the March that Students for Life shot, and you can see why the abortion lobby doesn’t want us allowed back into our own Capital. These peaceful people care, and they vote. And the next election is just two years away.
The Left’s Violent Double Standard
Do you feel that citizens opposing the Biden regime are subject to a double standard on political violence? Kamala Harris endorsed the Black Lives Matter/Antifa riots that claimed the lives of 25 Americans, including children. Are we seeing a one-sided crackdown on pro-life, pro-Christian speech and political activism?
Absolutely there is a double standard. Consider that two of our Students for Life students were arrested for trying to chalk Black Preborn Lives Matter. Meanwhile those engaged in burning cities, looting business and destroying property have faced few consequences. And consider the absolutely horrific attempts by activists in the media recently who pretend that the violence of this year says something about the millions of pro-life people in this nation.
The pro-life movement rejects the violence of abortion, and strategically, peacefully and deliberately works to protect all life in law. And we have the track record to prove it, marching peacefully for almost 50 years.
Targeting Kids with Down Syndrome
Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota just came out for protecting pre-born kids with Down Syndrome. What are her chances of passing such a bill? What are its prospects when it’s subject to legal challenge?
The abortion industry markets discrimination in saying that some people should not be born. They discriminate against preborn life based on the parents’ income or education, a child’s sex, or on perceptions of future abilities. Gov. Noem is confronting that prejudice in saying that we should not discriminate against children in the womb diagnosed with Down Syndrome, and Students for Life/Students for Life Action applauds that effort.
But let’s be clear: Every abortion an act is an act of discrimination. The abortion vendor finds a way to undermine the value of an innocent life and then profit from killing. The governor should have success with this bill, as it’s hard for people to look at those beautiful faces and say that should not be here among us. All life is beautiful.
The Blue States Nursing Home COVID Massacre
Given the massive die-off of nursing home patients in blue states with governors like Cuomo and Whitmer, should the pro-life movement expand its focus to include the REAL victims of COVID political malpractice?
No, not as the pro-life movement. To be pro-life is to be opposed to abortion, the human rights issue of our day. It’s to prioritize ending abortion, which is a goal that unites people of all parties, races, income levels, faiths or no faith, from this nation and every other.
As pro-life people, working to end the legal killing of preborn lives, our commitment to helping mothers and their children, born and preborn, leads many of us into other policy battles. There are a lot of important issues on which to engage, but our strength as pro-lifers comes in unifying around a single purpose. After that, seeing where that natural commitment to mothers and their children leads us, all can get more involved. I have found pro-life people to be very engaged in the toughest social issues of our times because they care about helping the weak and defenseless.
If we define “pro-life” to mean every issue under the sun, it ceases to have true meaning or to draw people together to achieve great things.
What About Trump?
Will the movement be fractured between those who still back Trumpian populism, and those who now claim it was historic mistake or crime, because of a single rally at the Capitol gone awry?
We are a bipartisan movement, and we vote pro-life first. Our movement isn’t about a party or a person, or a day but is about a commitment to ending abortion and all the horror it causes. That leads us to work with those who share our ideals and our struggle.
Any politician trying to justify support for abortion does not deserve our support. But what I find annoying in this current moment is how silent so many so-called pro-life people have become after claiming some moral high ground in supporting candidates who embrace radical abortion policies. Why are they not working to get the candidates they picked to choose life? Why are they silent when people they championed force a radical abortion agenda?
There are some people who say they are pro-life who have walked around with a virtual megaphone for years. What do they have to say now about the radical abortion policies already forced forward in just the first few days of this administration?
Joe “President” Biden: Born-Again Abortion Fanatic
Is there any limit to Biden’s support for abortion in any case at all? Or has he reached the theoretical limit of abortion extremism?
Obviously not, and it’s only downhill from here (at least at the federal level). Joe Biden has thrown away every common sense, pro-life principle he ever articulated. He’s sold out the teachings of his faith to win political power. But given the radical extremism of the team he has surrounded himself with, I don’t believe we’ve seen anywhere near the end of the damage he will cause. He says he wants to codify Roe. That means allowing abortion through all nine months, for any reason at all, and sometimes with taxpayer funding, into federal law. He wants to get rid of the Hyde Amendment, which limits taxpayer funding of abortion to cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger. And those are just things he said on the campaign trail. He wants to put people like Xavier Becerra into power as the head of HHS.
Students for Life Action wrote a letter to the U.S. Senate joined by more than 40 leading pro-life, pro-family groups. In it we noted that Becerra is unqualified for the job as he has never had any leadership or administrative role in healthcare. What he specializes in using the law to attack people with whom he disagrees. The letter notes:
Mr. Becerra carries a national reputation for his vehement, unwavering support for abortion including in the ninth month, his staunch convictions in opposition to conscience rights for medical professionals, and his hostile opinions regarding the freedoms of religious organizations, among other issues that are of major concern to us. As we speak, Mr. Becerra is in the midst of litigation that would revoke the Little Sisters of the Poor’s religious exemption in the state of California – following, of course, his historic lawsuit which sought to force the nuns to pay for services in direct conflict with their religious convictions. His bias for anti-life, anti-religion policy is apparent, and he should be rejected to serve as a national department head.
Where we will see a silver lining is that the state level, where people still can get engaged in protecting life in law. Not only can we protect life at the state level, challenges to those laws can end up at the Supreme Court where we have new people in place to consider Roe v. Wade’s many flaws.
Reaching the Young
How are you recalibrating your approach to college students, in the wake of 2020?
Students for Life has always been creatively and innovatively using technology to create connections because we have more than 1,250 groups in all 50 states, and we can’t always get together. But this has been a year to supersize that kind of programming.
We’ve created all kinds of content and places for community and organized political engagement through the c4 to allow for virtual lobbying, phone calls, texts and other grassroots activity. Every week, Students for Life entities reach more than 2 million people across social media platforms to have nearly 200,000 digital conversations with the most engaged pro-life online audience in the world.
Ironically, with so many displaced from school, we have managed to connect people in a time when so many are really missing community. I would invite everyone to visit us at https://studentsforlife.org to learn more.
John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream, and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He is co-author with Jason Jones of “God, Guns, & the Government.”