By: Mia Saidel
In a new administration that supports a pro-life agenda, millennials who are pro-life advocates ground their views in different ways say they find it challenging to voice their views among a liberal, young adult demographic.
The reactions among their peers, they say, are usually not welcoming.
“I get called ignorant, I get called naïve, I get called a disgrace to my gender,” former President of the Catholic Students Association at American University Killian MacDonald said.
About six in ten U.S. adults, or 59 percent, say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared with 37 percent who say it should be illegal, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center. In this same study, about 44 percent of Americans said having an abortion is morally wrong.
MacDonald said that classmates have called her out on social media after she shared her pro-life position, or opposition to abortion rights, in a classroom environment.
“One of the girls in my taboo class, who either forgot we were Facebook friends or just didn’t care, made a status about me and said I was a dumb, pretentious girl in her class,” MacDonald said. “I think in the generation before us, no one would sit in a room and assume they knew the identity and beliefs of every person in that room. People now think that someone who believes something opposite to what they’re saying just can’t be sitting in the same room with them. I think that’s a huge thing on social media because your feed gets curated, you get so in your own bubble that you’re so unaware that that bubble is not who happens to be around the table in class.”
The polarization surrounding the controversial issue was a factor for pro-life individuals who decided to not attend the Women’s March on Washington in late January. The march’s vision, which seeks to “send a bold message to our new government on their first day of office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights,” according to its website, also emphasizes that women should have “open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people, regardless of income, location or education.”
Lydia Williams, a sophomore at Montgomery College and pro-life activist in Washington, said that her anti-abortion values influenced her decision to not participate in the march.
“I did not attend the Women’s March because I felt that I would be out of place based on my opinion on abortion,” Williams said. “I just felt like I would be an outcast because I would be one of only a few women who would be pro-life.”
Other women, including junior at AU Meaghan Hinchley, said that attending the march would have made the pro-life argument “a voice that wasn’t going to be valid.”
“I don’t think I would have been the best vocalizer for what the march was about,” Hinchley said. “It didn’t seem like the thing for me to be at—there are better ways for me to show my support or be active.”
However, for young adults who attended the March for Life on January 27, one week after the Women’s March, they say it was a way for them to witness that as young people, they were not alone in their beliefs.
“It was amazing,” MacDonald said. “I’ve never felt so heard. This year, it really felt like a march for life, it felt like we were celebrating life. It felt like there was hope for a future where we can all do something.”
Being present at the March for Life and posting a photo of the event on social media was something that had the capacity to generate some hate, but was worth it because of the very personal significance of the experience, said Williams.
Some millennials in the Pew survey said that religion is a considerable component of their position on abortion. 74 percent of Americans identify with a Christian religion, and 53 percent of Americans say that religion is “very important” in their lives, according to a 2016 report by Gallup. This means that for a majority of Americans who oppose abortion, their Christian faith correlates with this opposition.
“I was raised in a Catholic household,” said Brad Ruest, a sophomore at Northern Virginia Community College and former Marine. “It was always indoctrinated in me that if you are Catholic, you are pro-life.”
For Ruest, the debate is centered on how to measure when life begins.
“If we found a single-celled organism on Mars, what would people say? They would say we found life on Mars. But when they apply that to a woman, people say it’s not a life,” Ruest said. “For me, I think life starts at conception. But I think it’s tough because you have to draw a line between a woman’s right and a child’s right to live.”
Despite the contention around the discussion, Hinchley said that it is important to look past irreconcilable differences and be able to rally around one another.
“I have friends who are very pro-abortion, and the fact that they can still support me and accept me for my viewpoint now is really great, even though they recognize that we will always view this differently,” Hinchley said. “But we can respect each other as people and we don’t have to tie our worth to a political issue. That’s the one thing I think everybody in the world right now can learn from.”