Kristan Hawkins, President of Students for Life of America, spoke with Townhall at the March for Life Friday about her group’s private meeting with Vice President Mike Pence Thursday and the renewed energy of pro-life student leaders across the country who were “hope-filled” and excited by the opportunity to address pro-life free speech and messaging issues with the vice president.
Students for Life, founded in 1988, now serves 1,200 high school and college pro-life student groups in every state across the nation. Hawkins said that more than 13 student group leaders spoke with Pence Thursday about “the increase of tax we found this year on the First Amendment and our First Amendment freedom of speech, our pro-life freedom of speech as well as our messaging on Planned Parenthood, how we’re talking about Planned Parenthood on college campuses and how we’re changing hearts and minds.”
Pro-life student groups have faced increasing hostility in recent years facing claims that they must contain their messages to free-speech zones, vandalization of their displays, and burdensome rules in even forming new pro-life chapters.
Hawkins said Pence and his wife were “moved,” by the meeting and Pence “kept talking about the courage, the character, and conviction of these young people and how he was so excited that these are the future leaders.”
Hawkins called it “an incredible feeling,” to stand by Pence as he made remarks on the March for Life while “actually holding one of the children that one of our students so courageously chose life for, she was pregnant in high school."
That student was Maddie Runkles, a teen whose private Christian high school tried to kick her out and then barred her from attending their graduation ceremony after she became pregnant despite her difficult choice to continue with the pregnancy. Students for Life hosted a graduation ceremony for her and Hawkins stood by Pence holding Maddie’s baby Greyson.
“I’m on stage holding this child, this child that Planned Parenthood would tell everyone should’ve been a statistic, should’ve been aborted, you know Maddie was their target audience,” she said, “next to the Vice President of the United States…it was just an incredible feeling for the entire pro-life generation.”
Hawkins says the pro-life student leaders were energized by the meeting.
“I think these students are going to go home, they’re going to tell their peers, all their group members that this administration means what they say,” she said. “That they’re sincere when they say they are the pro-life administration, that they will defund Planned Parenthood and so they were hope-filled.”
Hawkins reflected on the debate that was present in the pro-life and conservative movement over voting for Trump in 2016. She said for her the issue was simple and she believes her vote paid off.
“I know there were a lot of people who were conflicted in the election,” she said, ‘do I vote for Trump? Do I not vote for Trump?’ To me it was very simple you had a pro-abortion candidate and you had an anti-abortion candidate and you had to choose one and it paid off.”
“You know last year when we were here a lot of people were saying well is President Trump really going to do what he says he’s going to do,” she added, “He has done it.”
One student from Colorado Christian University (CCU), Stephanie Schlabach, called meeting Pence “an honor and privilege.”
She said she was able to share her opinion “on why Planned Parenthood should be defunded and CCU's Students for Life's involvement in the Sock it to Planned Parenthood campaign. I am so proud to be a part of the pro-life generation when we have such a Godly pro-life advocate as the Vice President.”
In September, Students for Life launched the Sock it to Planned Parenthood campaign showing the nation’s capitol and states across the country the 328,348 baby socks they’ve collected – one for every unborn baby that died in FY 2016 in abortions at Planned Parenthood.