In 1973, the United States Supreme Court held in Roe v. Wade that abortion is a constitutional right that may not be prohibited by the individual States. Twenty years later, in 1993, the late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan introduced the concept of “defining deviancy down.”
By this he meant that each generation adjusts to an increase in anti-social behavior by redefining deviancy and, in effect, pretending that society has not gotten worse. It might be expected that the deviancy of abortion would have become accepted over the past 31 years, especially by those born during that time who have never lived in a country where abortion was not a “right.”
Not if the Survivors have anything to say about it.
The Survivors (full name: “Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust”) is an organization of young men and women who see themselves in the context of their whole generation—those aborted as well as those living. One third of their generation—45,000,000 brothers, sisters, classmates—has been lost to abortion. That makes it personal. It is the mission of the Survivors to speak for those lost members of their generation and to expose the horrific truth of abortion to the world, and particularly to their peers, fellow members of this depleted generation.
Founded in 1998, the Survivors ministry is different from any other pro-life group. For one thing, its members are, by definition, young— some quite young. They are activists, they are well-informed and well-trained, and they are on the front lines of the battle against abortion. Survivors attend a two-week summer camp that is, essentially, an intensive course in pro-life activism. Each session is attended by 40–60 young people (high school and college age) with new campers attending each year. There, they not only learn the theory, but also how to put that theory into practice. Speakers address the campers on sidewalk counseling, apologetics, negotiating with police, the First Amendment right of free speech, and dealing with the media.
Then the campers take that knowledge to the streets (sidewalks, actually) and learn how to put it into practice.
Christine Reeves, age 20, has been with the Survivors since the beginning, and is enthusiastic about the quality of the training the campers receive. “I have watched 14-, 15- and 16-year-olds converse with college professors and seen the professors walk away upset, because they couldn’t respond [to the young Survivor]. That says a lot.” The campers return to their communities trained and inspired, and often recruit friends to organize new chapters of the Survivors in their schools and towns.
One of the primary activities of the Survivors is their Campus Life Tour. Throughout the year, a small number of college-age Survivors takes to the road for a month or more in an RV and trailer, visiting scores of high school and college campuses. (The goal is to visit one of each every day.) There they stand quietly, displaying large, admittedly grisly photographs that depict the grisly truth of abortion. They pass out literature to those who approach them, answer questions, and when possible, have rational, civil discussions with the students. Sometimes they are even invited into classrooms to speak. It is safe to say, however, that their campus visits are always controversial.
In Christine’s experience, young people are generally far easier to engage in discussion than adults.“The young people are more open-minded. They are still trying to decide what is right and wrong. By the time they reach their late-20’s and early-30’s, they may have already made mistakes and are not as likely to listen with an open mind.” Frequently the school administrators—as well as teachers and professors—are the ones most adamantly opposed to the Survivors’ presence on or near the campus. Such opposition results in calls to the campus or local police and demands to remove or arrest the Survivors. However, the Survivors sometimes have a better knowledge of their free-speech rights than do the police, with the result that the Survivors have been ordered off public campuses (or even off adjacent public sidewalks) and arrested. In those instances, the Survivors often call upon the services of LLDF.
Thanks to the efforts of LLDF attorneys in over 20 arrests of Survivors in the past two years, not one case has gone to trial. All the cases have either been rejected for filing or the complaint has been dismissed. In some instances these incidents have also resulted in colleges revamping their speech policies or ensuring that their employees fully understand those policies. In a few cases, however, schools have remained adamant in their refusal to allow Survivors meaningful access to students, thus necessitating further legal action.
For example, in September 2002, Christine and three companions went to Millikan High School in Long Beach, California and stood on the public sidewalk with signs and literature. Though students were receptive, the principal and police demanded that they leave and stand across the street. When former Survivors director Dan McCullough refused, he was arrested. Christine and the others moved across the street under threat of arrest.
No criminal complaint was filed, and the four, represented by LLDF Legal Director Katie Short, sued the principal and the police for violating their First Amendment rights. The school district countered by claiming that the arrest and the actions of the police and principal were entirely lawful, and that the pro-lifers had no right to show “offensive” pictures and literature to the students. The court disagreed. On November 19, 2003, the federal district court in Los Angeles issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the principal and police from arresting or otherwise interfering with the prolifers’ peaceful expressive activities.
The Campus Life Tour is just one of many activities of the Survivors. Last year, a contingent of the Survivors was among the tens of thousands of participants in the March for Life in Washington, D.C. on the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. They have also made appearances in less welcoming venues such as the Democratic National Convention and the MTV Awards.
Christine, a life-long pro-life activist, admits that even she is impressed by the courage she sees displayed by her fellow-Survivors while working the front lines. “There are times when someone comes up, gets upset, and yells at them. But these kids are brave—they will take anybody on. They have had big people come up and scream and yell at them, and the smallest, petite little girl will jump on them and say,
“You’re wrong”, and explain why. These kids aren’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in. They are not afraid to have a conversation with anyone.”
According to Katie Short, one of the benefits of representing the Survivors is watching them in action on video. The group usually has one member assigned to videotape their activities, in case of trouble or to fend off false accusations that they are causing a disruption or blocking passage. “I love watching footage of students listening intently to the Survivors and scrutinizing their signs and literature. It’s clear this is news to them, and they are open to learning. The biggest kick is when the students start discussing the issue among themselves, with the pro-life ones using the Survivors’ signs to make their point.”
The Survivors, in turn, are very appreciative of their LLDF lawyers. Says Survivors director Cheryl Conrad: “Words cannot express the appreciation that we at Survivors have for Life Legal Defense Foundation. I am quite confident in saying that the work of Survivors would be seriously impaired—if not made impossible— without the partnership and legal assistance of LLDF.”
Every boy and girl, man and woman, born in the United States since 1972 is a survivor of the abortion holocaust whether he or she has joined this organization or not. Those who have, however, are working to prevent what remains of their generation from accepting the deviancy of abortion, so that the next and succeeding generations will not suffer the same slaughter that theirs has.
[For more information about the Survivors, visit their website at www.survivors.la.]