As a growing number of young people in America are joining the pro-life movement, youth around the world are fighting a similar fight. Last weekend, around 400 youth from five countries gathered together in the gym of St. Matthias High School in Downey, Calif., for the first International Pro-Life Youth Conference to learn from each other about how to advocate for the issue.
In Ireland, the youth of the country have been fighting pro-abortion legislation for a long time. In 1992, the courts tried to legalize abortion and proponents of abortion claimed that it was the youth of Ireland who wanted the law to pass. But a group of college students in Dublin disagreed, creating a pro-life organization called Youth Defence that rallied the young people of the country to protest the law. Within days they organized protests on the streets, outside the homes of ministers, and courthouses until the Irish government backed down, fearing a backlash. Twenty years later, abortion is still illegal in the country.
"We are just getting started," said Dr. Eoghan De Faoite, the chairman of Youth Defence. "We show no sign of stopping or slowing down until we protect the dignity of every person, no matter how 'inconvenient,' because they are all wanted by God."
De Faoite said the organization is still working to "change hearts and minds against abortion," by handing out fliers on the streets and informing the public about the abortion. Lately they have ramped up efforts as the European Union and Planned Parenthood Global are trying to legalize abortion in the country.
Over in New Zealand, the pro-life movement is still small, but the youth are starting to gather and discuss the taboo subject. Andy Moore, the founding president of ProLife NZ said, "The culture back in New Zealand is very liberal â€¦ they have decriminalized abortion in [Victoria state], so it's no longer a criminal offense," he said.
Abortion is now part of the country's healthcare, which Moore said may soon happen in the United States. In Victoria, the government has also taken away conscience protection for doctors, forcing all doctors to perform abortions regardless of their beliefs. In general, abortion is a taboo topic that may only appear on the news only about once a year.
Because of the lack of discussion about abortion, Moore believes speaking out about abortion is the most important first step for the New Zealand pro-life movement. "From that platform, we can make it work," Moore said.
In nearby Australia, 20-year-old Lauren Langrell is involved with 40 Days for Life, an event started in America where pro-life activists spend 40 days praying in front of abortion clinics and talking to the women who walk into the building. "You see all these people walking out having lost something, it makes abortion a reality," Langrell said. Many of the women turn back and Langrell said in total, 40 Days for Life in Australia saved 300 to 400 lives.
Langrell's friend Giselle Bertino-Clarke also grew up in Australia before moving to the United States to study. Last year she started a pro-life group at Pasadena Community College in Southern California. Although classmates were hostile at first, she has been able to develop relationships and share about the issue. She urges others to speak up as well: "The youth should pray and also get proactive. You can't just say you're pro-life, you have to be reaching out," Bertino-Clarke said.
For the first time since Roe v. Wade passed in 1973, more American youth say they are pro-life than pro-choice. According to a 2009 Gallup poll, 51 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds in America said they were pro-life, compared to 45 percent who called themselves pro-choice.
Claudia Gutierrez, a 17-year-old from Northern California, said she was pro-choice until a friend brought her to a camp held by Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, a pro-life organization.
"I was completely changed seeing what abortion was - it wasn't about choice, it was killing a life. It opened my eyes and I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life - stop it," Gutierrez said.
Moore believes students like Bertino-Clarke and Gutierrez can make a global difference. "Big shots" in the pro-life movement were at some point small movers in local circles, he explained. "And that's when we need to get them," he said.
Moore, who has spent time in both New Zealand and the United States, said that "Americans view the world as America and â€¦ abortion is a human problem. We could end abortion in America, but that's not good enough."