Pro-Life Activism

Live Campuses: Educating Youth on the Culture of Life

A typical American college campus offers the following curriculum: Timeless prerequisites cheap beer, late-night parties, hapless academic advisors, expensive textbooks and leftist professors. Then there are the modern electives: radical feminist militancy, homosexual activism and a contraceptive sex culture many find irresistible. Most campus health clinics are veritable marketing tools for Planned Parenthood. From dispensing the abortion chain’s condom lollipops in your choice of flashy colors and other sex products, to referring pregnant students to the nearest abortion business, they do it all.

The results?

  • By the time the typical college student graduates, this culture will have transformed them from self-identifying as “pro-life” to “pro-choice.”
  • According to a Zogby poll, 56.6 percent of college students are sexually active.1
  • The average college student will have 10.8 “hookup” partners during their college years.2
  • According to the Guttmacher Institute, one-fifth of all abortions in the U.S. are committed on college students.3
  • Seeing a visibly pregnant woman on campus is about as rare as finding a pro-life women’s studies professor

The culture war’s key battleground

So, college campuses certainly aren’t havens for life yet, but a passionate pro-life movement is emerging and growing exponentially at hundreds of schools around the country. Nowhere else is the pro-life movement’s involvement so critically necessary, because nowhere else are the culture wars more pronounced.

“College campuses are the number-one place people develop their concept of the world. It’s designed to break down [old concepts] and develop new ones,” said Michael Barnett, American Life League’s leadership development director and a 2006 graduate of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (more commonly known as “Virginia Tech”). “Whatever ideas are dominant and institutionalized on a college campus will develop in the minds of the students.”

Bringing life back to college

In September, ALL rolled out a plan to win the minds and souls of America’s college students: Live Campus. A Live Campus is a college campus that affirms and protects the personhood of all human beings, born and preborn. Live Campus resources support mothers and fathers who sacrifice for the miracle of bringing a new child into the world. Live Campus academics and policies promote the personhood of every human being regardless of stage of development through health care, academic departments, speakers, funding and governance.

So here’s how it works:

Currently, around 200 pro-life campus groups operate around the country. Most have a difficult mission: Educate the campus about abortion and other forms of murdering innocent human beings, such as euthanasia, infanticide, human embryonic stem cell research and human cloning, in order to foster respect for human beings at every stage of development.

This is a noble, but huge and intimidating task. Moreover, when campus groups operate alone, it can be hard to gauge how successful they are. ALL’s Live Campus project offers the invaluable ability to measure success. Working with an established campus pro-life group with a strong student leader, ALL assists the group in transforming its campus by

  • collecting signatures to prove a majority of students recognize all human beings as persons,
  • systematically ensuring the campus health center, the student government and any other student-funded institutions affirm the personhood of all human beings,
  • shifting campus culture by sponsoring life-promoting events, speakers on the effects of abortion and human development displays,
  • influencing the outside community through service projects, community involvement and internships that respect, reflect and advance the values of a Live Campus.

“Having this kind of presence on campus, changing the culture of campus institutions and educating on the personhood of all human beings is critical,” Barnett observed. “While the faculty is largely dominated by pro-abortion professors, the rest of the college experience is largely free of such control. The 80 percent of a student’s life spent away from abortion indoctrination in the classroom can be taken over by a message of life.”

What students are saying

College campuses have always been on the cusp of change and new ideas. The pro-life movement is now engaged in harnessing that energy and avant-garde spirit to speak a new message to a new generation.

“We can create a positive message on college campuses that is not only anti-abortion, but promotes the dignity of all human beings,” Barnett said. “That message is personhood.”

Barnett is working with a core group of campuses across the country to establish the first generation of Live Campuses. One of these is the University of Cincinnati, located in the city that is home to Dr. Martin Haskell, the infamous abortionist who perfected the brutal partial-birth abortion method.

Joe Burwinkel, president of UC Students for Life has a difficult campus on his hands his school is home to radical homosexual and pro-abortion groups that counter UC Students for Life’s every event. Nevertheless, Burwinkel is excited about the prospect of transforming his school. “Evil is allowed to occur because good men do nothing, as the saying goes,” says Burwinkel. “We want to utilize everyone on campus; we want to pass pro-life legislation; we want child care on campus; we want a pro-life health center and full-time post-abortive counseling at the women’s center.”

Mary Reding, president of the Students for Life chapter at Kentucky’s Murray State University, as well as the statewide Students for Life group, agrees “This is the way to make personhood important to students and their student representatives. We want to demand pro-life counseling for crisis pregnancies and a student government that supports the personhood of all,” Reding said. “[Live] Campus will celebrate women who keep their children, and the university will be bound to help.”

Pivotal arena for the personhood movement

Live Campuses represent cultural change capable of instilling the idea of personhood into every student at a university. This could represent the radical, personal change needed to stoke the smoldering fires of the culture of life.

It has worked before. Radicals redefined campus culture with the sexual revolution in the 1960s. They did it by changing institutions, and we can see the tragic and deranged end result today.

Now a fresh generation is ready to swing the pendulum back to sanity. Today’s youth are sick of the stale, diseased culture the Saul Alinskys, Margaret Sangers and Bill Ayreses of the world have passed down. They are ready to start a revolution of their own, based on true principles of equal rights based on personhood a revolutionary new direction in the pro-life movement, for a revolutionary pro-life generation.

The personhood movement is a fundamental paradigm change from the strategy of the last 35 years of pro-life activism. It strikes at the root of abortion and disregard for human life. It works to establish respect for the equality, dignity and value of every human being, so that abortion, embryonic stem cell research, infanticide and euthanasia will be culturally acknowledged as the unthinkable atrocities that they are.

Campuses are typically the starting point for cultural transformation. The dynamism of ALL’s Live Campus outreach will help set off the cultural earthquake needed to restore respect for the dignity of all human beings throughout society.

1“Catholic campus organization continues to combat lack of ‘morals, ethics, and leadership,’” Catholic News Agency, August 30, 2006,

2Maria Szalavitz, “Reporters Gone Wild,” AlterNet, October 6, 2004.

3See note 1, above


Meet the director of Live Campus

Michael Barnett left his position as director of a congressional campaign to pursue his Live Campus vision with American Life League. He joined ALL as its Leadership Development Director in September 2008. Live Campus is the result of his years in both pro-life and campus activism, which included achieving a five-fold increase in the number of students involved in student government, and starting a 40-person international relations organization that in its first year, hosted a conference, attended international conferences and hosted international speakers.

After college, he gained critical insights into both pro-life and conservative politics at the Leadership Institute. At Students for Life of America, he helped start hundreds of pro-life groups around the country on college campuses. During his time at SFLA, and thanks to great mentors, he developed a love for the Catholic Church, which led to his conversion almost two years ago. Now he wants to see groups on campuses and in local communities systematically change campuses to respect the personhood and parents of the preborn.

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About the author

Katie Walker

Katie Walker is a former American Life League director of communications.