SLU students put money, faith behind pro-life effort
by Jennifer Brinker, Review Staff Writer
That’s what the members of St. Louis University’s Students for Life organization believe. And to put its money where its mouth is, the group is doing something to help young women at SLU who find themselves in just that situation.
Last week, Students for Life announced the establishment of the Pregnant and Parenting Student Assistance, an endowed scholarship that will provide financial assistance to any SLU student facing unexpected pregnancy or parenthood, so they can stay on the path toward earning a degree.
The group already has raised about $6,300 — more than a fourth of its goal to raise $25,000, the minimum amount needed to establish an endowment. The goal amount will provide at least $1,000 in scholarship funding each academic year for the life of the endowment.
The scholarship was announced at an event the organization held Oct. 10 on campus in Midtown St. Louis. The gathering also coincided with Respect Life Week Oct. 3-12 at the university, also sponsored by Students for Life.
The scholarship also is just one of several achievements of the group, which in recent years "has turned into a real training ground for leaders in the pro-life movement," said staff adviser and SLU campus minister Steve Fowler.
"It’s intellectual, it’s spiritual, it’s political — they appreciate the complexity, and that excites me," Fowler said of the organization, which was chartered in 1992 and has roots that go back years before that.
Based in the tradition and teachings of the Catholic Church, Students for Life also is "an engagement of people and where they’re at," Fowler explained. "This is an organization not sponsored by a Church organization. Its members are going down different career paths and backgrounds."
In the last few years, Students for Life has experienced a small boom of sorts in membership. When Fowler was hired as campus minister in 2005, average attendance at weekly meetings was under 10 people.
During the 2006-2007 school year, several new events were sponsored, which Fowler said laid the foundation for "growth in good leadership."
Today, the group has an active membership of more than 50 students, said Sarah Pingel, external vice president for Students for Life and a junior majoring in elementary education.
"It’s exciting being a member and seeing your work make a difference on campus," said Amanda Labuz, a sophomore elementary and special education major.
Fowler noted that some of the group’s recent accomplishments have displayed that the members are "thinking outside of the box."
Last year, a brochure was developed to provide resources to students who face an unplanned pregnancy. The brochures are distributed among resident advisers, campus ministry and SLU’s Student Health and Counseling Center.
Students also have hosted a baby shower at Our Lady’s Inn, a emergency shelter for women who face unplanned pregnancies; gotten involved in the campaign to ban human cloning in Missouri; and hosted talks on current issues such as birth control and the morning-after pill.
In an effort to engage dialogue among students campuswide, the group incorporated the topic "Is Abortion Racist?" into its display of crosses on the quad this year.
Using recent statistics from the Guttmacher Institute, the display features more than 1,600 crosses, each representing two abortions that are performed in the United States each day. Thirty-seven percent are marked with black ribbons, representing the number of black women who have had abortions; 34 percent are white, and 22 percent are red for Hispanic women.
Armed with that information, Students for Life points out that while 37 percent of black women in the U.S. are having abortions, African Americans make up a little more than 12 percent of the population, according to recent U.S. Census data.
"The statistics show that there is a huge misproportion of abortions taking place in the African- American community," said Pingel. "We’re trying to raise awareness and ask the question so students can look into it. So often we hear how abortion is bad, but we wanted people to take a new look at the issue."
Their efforts were met with some criticism, though.
Labuz, for example, said that she heard several students in her cultural diversity class criticize the display, "saying Students for Life was being racist. They thought we were targeting minorities, rather than looking at it as minorities who are being targeted" by abortion.
Students for Life president Kevin Grillot said as a student leader, it can be challenging, "working on the concept of building a culture of life. This group has built up so much momentum. We are at a point where we want to grow and expand and pursue so many different things. Members are bringing different aspects to the table."
Students for Life also is getting some exposure at the national level. In January 2007, the group was presented with the Evangelium Vitae Award for leadership in pro-life activities at Georgetown University’s annual Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life, sponsored by Georgetown’s Right to Life student organization. The $1,000 award went toward the establishment of SLU’s endowed scholarship.
Students for Life also made a presentation at a state leadership conference sponsored by Students for Life of America in Washington, D.C. And the University of Florida has requested information from Students for Life on how the group organizes its annual benefit run/walk.
For more information on Students for Life or to make a contribution to the Pregnant and Parenting Student Assistance scholarship, visit pages.slu.edu/org/sfl/about.html, send an e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (314) 977-2430.
Donations also can be made by check to St. Louis University (write Pregnant and Parenting Scholarship on the memo line) and mailed to Pregnant and Parenting Student Assistance, c/o Students for Life at St. Louis University, MSC 11, 20 N. Grand Blvd., St. Louis MO 63103.