American Life League is reaching Generation Z with the pro-life message
Generation Z, or those born after 1995,1 presents both a challenge and an opportunity for the pro-life movement. Each generation brings unique challenges to those trying to instill moral truths. For Generation Z, part of the challenge lies in the fact that these young people have grown up with social media, smartphones, and other technologies as a part of everyday life. Also, being raised well after Roe v. Wade and under the influence of the media, today’s youth are growing up in a culture that accepts not only abortion, but “gay marriage,” pornography, and transgenderism as “normal.” But there is great hope for this generation. They are cautious. They are bold. They are hungry for the truth and ready and willing to stand in defense of injustice. With a strategic move, American Life League has begun a plan to help reach, teach, and lead them in the battle against the culture of death.
This past fall, American Life League made the move to include Life Defenders—a youth outreach and activism program—under the outreach umbrella of the Culture of Life Studies Program to help equip this generation and ready its members to stand for life.
“Including Life Defenders as the activism arm under the Culture of Life Studies Program was such a natural fit,” says Mary Flores, educational outreach coordinator for the Culture of Life Studies Program. “With the Culture of Life Studies Program, we are teaching the students in the classroom while encouraging them to be pro-life leaders and activists through the Life Defenders youth outreach.”
Working under the leadership of the Culture of Life Studies Program team, Life Defenders will create or promote opportunities for students to put their pro-life education into practice. “The pro-life educational materials from the Culture of Life Studies Program give students the knowledge,” says Flores. “Life Defenders enables them to put it into practice.”
After launching three years ago, the Culture of Life Studies Program is successfully reaching thousands of students in over 175 schools and parishes throughout the United States and Canada by providing their parents and teachers with the materials necessary to help them become effective communicators of the pro-life message.
As the Culture of Life Studies Program has grown, so has the need to reach the students who are participating in the program. When the Culture of Life Studies Program received over 600 entries for its 2017 Pro-Life Essay Contest, the CLSP team knew it was time to provide more activism opportunities for students in school. “Our entire team is so excited to help develop Life Defenders,” says Flores. “We see this as an opportunity to provide students with a practical way to live the pro-life message.”
Reaching Generation Z with Generation Z
When American Life League made the exciting decision to move Life Defenders under the Culture of Life Studies Program management, it introduced the need for more staff. This past winter, Margaret Haislmaier joined the team to help with youth outreach. As a member of Generation Z herself with a background in pro-life activism and youth outreach, Haislmaier is well-equipped to respond to the needs of her generation. “I’m excited to share the truth,” she says. “I feel like our culture as a whole has been leaving out the truth. A lot of people are confused about what to believe, but if you have the truth, it’s freeing.”
What makes American Life League’s approach to reaching students unique from other pro-life youth outreach programs is our commitment to ending abortion without exception or compromise. The difference is in the message: “We understand the things that this generation has to deal with in the world,” says Flores. “Through solid, pro-life educational materials, we are working to help them become bold in their support of moral values, traditional families, respect for the elderly, and defense of preborn children. If we want to help these kids end abortion, we have to frame the pro-life message in a way that resonates with them.”
With materials from the Culture of Life Studies Program, students gain a grasp of pro-life philosophy so that they know what to say when confronted about their pro-life beliefs. They become equipped to compassionately confront not only abortion, but euthanasia, gay marriage, and other aspects of the culture of death with the truth. Through activism opportunities like wearing a pro-life shirt in public or praying outside an abortion facility, CLSP gives students simple ways to practice building a culture of life.
Activism opportunities are just the natural next step to solid pro-life education. “Pro-life education and pro-life activism must go hand in hand,” Flores adds. “It is this combination that will bring about the success of this next generation to build a culture of life.”
Life Defenders’ main objective is to ensure that the pro-life education students receive from the Culture of Life Studies Program culminates in inspiring students to end abortion through activism such as praying or protesting outside abortion facilities and participating in National Pro-Life T-Shirt Day.
Usually set during the spring semester, National Pro-Life T-Shirt Day is a day when Life Defenders asks everyone—both students and adults—to don a pro-life T-shirt and spread the message that every human being is valuable and deserves to be protected, from creation to death. Much of this is done through social media posting, which is something for which Generation Z is more than equipped. Even though they do not use Facebook, they do use other social media sites like Snapchat and Instagram, which are perfect venues for sharing pro-life selfies.
For this year’s National Pro-Life T-Shirt Day, American Life League decided to emphasize its 100 percent commitment to defending innocent human beings with a 100% Pro-Life T-Shirt in order to teach people what “no exceptions and no compromise” really mean.
The design started as an idea submitted by two brothers who are members of Generation Z. Michael and John from St. Louis came up with the idea for the shirt after years of frustration with finding the right pro-life gear. The guys wanted to wear pro-life shirts everywhere they went, but none of the shirts they had in their closet really seemed to encompass the way they felt about not only ending abortion but also protecting and defending every human being.
“We wanted something that made a bold statement,” Michael says. “We wanted a shirt that not only looks cool but also has a strong message and makes other people think.” The boys came up with a way to express their pro-life identity clearly and effectively without compromising their beliefs.
The front of the shirt emphasizes that the wearer supports human beings from the moment of their creation with the phrase “100% Pro-Life: Exception-Free From the Moment of Creation.” The details on the back of the shirt explain what 100 percent pro-life really means, using a clever nutrition label to list all of the people who are most in need of protection—preborn babies, senior citizens, and people of all abilities.
The 100% Pro-Life T-Shirt is more than just another pro-life shirt. It is an identity for the young pro-life generation to embrace after over 40 years of abortion. Most pro-life shirts on the market have simple messages like “Love Life” or even just “Pro-Life” that never truly explain what that message means.
The 100% Pro-Life T-Shirt is a great activist’s statement that teaches people what being pro-life is really all about—respecting all human beings and spreading the pro-life message with compassion, understanding, and perseverance. Being 100-percent pro-life means that we do not celebrate the exceptions legislation that creates more bendable rules for the baby-killing industry instead of eradicating abortion.
Michael and John now wear their 100% Pro-Life T-Shirts everywhere they go—baseball practice, co-op, or out with friends. “It’s an easy way to make a difference,” John says.
Young people from Generation Z have had an overwhelming response to the shirt. “The reaction we have received from students as young as seven years old up to college age, as well as parents and teachers, has been overwhelmingly positive,” says Mary Flores. She continued: “Today’s student is interested in defending the dignity of all human beings, from creation until death. This shirt helps them deliver that message without even saying a word.”
Teens love the shirt. The 100% Pro-Life T-Shirt was a best seller at the March for Life—and one of the bestselling shirts American Life League has ever offered. The American Life League booth completely sold out of the shirts at the March for Life Expo with many pro-lifers approaching the booth to ask, “Where is the shirt we’ve been told we have to buy?” Online sales for the T-shirt were at a record high in the days immediately following the debut. Within two weeks, new stock had to be ordered to meet the growing demand. During the weeks leading up to National Pro-Life T-Shirt Day, it was difficult for ALL staff to keep the shirt in stock.
“National Pro-Life T-Shirt Day appeals to Gen Z because it’s simple,” says Haislmaier. “You just have to wear a T-shirt.”
It is such a simple gesture, but it makes a difference. Haislmaier herself has seen how wearing a pro-life shirt out in public affects others. “Sometimes you forget that you’re wearing the T-shirt.” she laughs. “I was wearing a pro-life T-shirt out and about in the city and I kept getting stares.” Perplexed at first, she finally realized that it was her 100% Pro-Life T-Shirt that was causing a stir. “Wearing the shirt plants little seeds for people and makes them think about something they haven’t really thought about. It invites questions,” says Haislmaier.
“Students love the simple truth the shirt delivers,” says Flores. “It’s definitely the most creative shirt American Life League has had in years,” she adds.
Helping Generation Z be pro-life
With the responses the Culture of Life Studies Program received from those who participated in our 2017 Pro-Life Essay Contest and National Pro-Life T-Shirt Day, young people are sending a message loud and clear: Young people in Generation Z want to be involved in pro-life activism that defends the most vulnerable human beings. The challenge to the pro-life movement is to channel the next generation’s passion and zeal for protecting others and help students understand the importance of the unapologetic 100-percent pro-life stance.
Through pro-life activism, young people realize that they are a part of something bigger than themselves. They understand that they are part of the fight to end the horrible injustices against preborn babies and other vulnerable people who need protection.
With education and activism outreaches, the Culture of Life Studies Program continues to help teachers, parents, and students find ways to spread the pro-life message and end abortion in their own communities. As a pro-life movement, we can place our hope in the next generation, but only if we educate them and inspire them to continue to build the culture of life.
Do you know a group of young people who are passionate about ending abortion, no matter what the cost? Introduce them to Margaret Haislmaier at [email protected]
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1 James Emery White. Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2017), 35.