By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator

When a person you are talking to does not have a pro-life viewpoint concerning abortion, euthanasia and end-of-life issues, to keep the person from becoming entrenched in their views in a heated conversation it takes skill and compassion, which are developed through experience, said leaders of PULSE Leadership Institute.

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Left side, forefront, PULSE leadership Institute attendees Francesca Corbello and Hope Leverne, left side background, listen to views concerning abortion expressed by two people they encountered on the LSU campus. Photo by Debbie Shelley | The Catholic Commentator


Approximately 60 youth from around Louisiana attended the PULSE Leadership Institute on June 4-9 at the Catholic Life Center to learn how to become pro-life leaders and have a dialogue concerning respecting life at all stages.

“These leaders not only discussed abortion, but also adoption, euthanasia, physician assisted suicide, disability discrimination in abortion, pro-life feminism and heroism, Planned Parenthood and real women’s resources, third party reproduction and pro-life legislation,” said Pulse adult leader Krista Corbello. They heard from several experts, including Bobby Schindler, Terri Schiavo’s brother, and Brandon Buell, founder of Jaxon Strong.

They also were inspired throughout the week by leading modern pro-life organizations such as Rehumanize International and New Wave Feminists.

Corbello said the concept of pro-life feminism captivated the students after they heard a talk form Aimee Murphy, executive director of Rehumanize International.

Murphy supported “the woman’s right to choose” until she thought she was pregnant as a sophomore in high school. In January she had sex with an “on-again-off-again” boyfriend. In February he raped her, and in April she missed her monthly cycle. The boyfriend pulled her out of class one day and told her, “I can’t possibly tell my mom what happened. We can’t … I’ve been thinking. If you don’t get an abortion, I might kill you and then myself.”

Murphy’s first thoughts were she could have an abortion and “take care of the problem.” But after researching fetal development and adoption, she knew violence to an unborn child was not the solution.

She told her parents about her pregnancy, then went to the doctor and found out she wasn’t pregnant.

Through her situation Murphy was drawn to feminism. She discovered many leading feminist leaders strongly opposed abortion and created the first pro-life feminist organization. Contemporary feminist organizations today include: Feminists for Life, Feminists for Nonviolent Choices, Alice Paul Group and Rehumanize International and New Wave Feminists.

“In the popular feminist circles, ‘pro-life’ is treated like a swear word of its own, associated with the idea of stripping women of rights and chaining them barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. But I’m here to tell you today that not only can you be a feminist – but that being pro-life and pro-woman really do go hand in hand,” said Murphy.

Receiving information and inspiration from the “educational hub” at the Catholic Life Center, the youth put the lessons into practice by going out into the community.

“The week began with a call to compassion while reflecting on the testimonies of speakers who were directly impacted by abortion,” said Corbello. “The students had a thorough pro-life persuasion course and immediately practiced persuasion skills by surveying and engaging random students on LSU’s campus. They witnessed and prayed at the Delta Women’s Clinic, the abortion facility in Baton Rouge, and toured the adjacent Women’s New Life Center and witnessed a live ultrasound, learning about all of the pro-life, pro-woman resources the agency can offer to a woman in crisis. The last day included a visit to a nursing home and breakout sessions on concrete activism for their high school or college campuses and home communities.”

The highlight for many of the PULSE participants was conducting pro-life surveys on LSU’s campus.

Students scattered across campus with clipboards and surveys which asked about whether or not certain groups of people deserve equal rights: men and women, people of different color, people of different sexual orientation, and lastly, born and unborn, said Corbello.

The final question concluded the formal survey, and participants could elect to further the conversation about born and unborn.

“Many PULSE students engaged in deep discussion with passers-by, some for longer than an hour,” said Corbello.

Jayci Terrel, a member of Our Lady of Fatima Church in Lafayette, said, “This feels great. Before I came on campus I was thinking, ‘What am I going to do, I’m really nervous, what if people yell at me.’ But as soon as we get here I’m always pumped because they (PUSLE leaders) give you what you need and I feel like we’re putting our training to work.”

She said she had a conversation with a young woman who was pro-choice, but she said she would keep an open mind and went over to the PULSE’s pro-life feminist table.

A second conversation was with a man whom didn’t believe that life began at conception. She said when she explained the fertilization process as the biological start of life with contributions from a father and mother, he compared it to a virus.

She said the best way to know if people are being receptive to the message they are presenting is through their body language, and sometimes the best thing is to let them go and pray they planted a seed that will open their minds.

Sarah Massey, 16, of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Houma, said she had a conversation with a man who said in the same way “population control” is conducted for animals in shelters, abortion is a form of population control for humans. He believed it was the mother’s right to abort a child. He further pointed to the number of children in foster care.

Massey kept to her training of being non-confrontational with the man. But she noted she had her own positive experience with the foster care system, in that a two-year-old boy in foster care came to live with her family.

“He fits right in. He has chubby checks and he tries to keep up with his older brothers,” said Massey with a broad smile.

She said it’s up to youth to make sure such positive messages get out.

“Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference,” Massey said. “As it says in Timothy 4:12, ‘Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.’ ”