The Northwest Students for Life group is fighting for the unborn as the U.S. Supreme Court sits at a conservative majority and a Democratic president is set to take office in January.
Senior Tilena Conover, former president of Students for Life, grew up in an anti-abortion home in Maryville.
“It’s become not just a belief of mine but a passion,” Conover said. “I have always believed in conception to natural death is life. It just got stronger once I got to college, realizing how many people do have different views on that, and it made me more convicted to know where I stand.”
The group's Social Media Chair Will Anderson and Vice President Logan Poppe share this passion. Anderson’s anti-aboriton fight began when he learned of his grandmother nearly being forced to abort his mother.
Students for Life is an organization present on college campuses across the country. School to school, it operates in different ways.
“We’re here to educate the younger generation because the more they know about what their rights are and what our history is, they can better know what is wrong and what is right to them,” Conover said.
The group often works with The Source Medical Clinic in Maryville. CEO Gwen Knowles started the clinic seven years ago to fill a need in the community for expecting parents and young people in need of sexual health guidance. Its funding comes from donors in the community.
The clinic provides pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, sexually transmitted disease screening, parenting classes, baby supplies and abortion and birth control consultations. The clinic will refer patients to other medical professionals for birth control and abortion care.
“Abortion takes a life of a human being, and that’s not healthcare,” Knowles said.
Knowles said Planned Parenthoods should be defunded out of respect for taxpayers’ beliefs.
Jesse Lawder is the vice president of marketing and communications for the St. Louis branch of Planned Parenthood. He served as chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Labor during the Obama administration. Lawder returned to St. Louis to work with Planned Parenthood after hearing President Donald Trump's inauguration in January of 2017. He said services like Source Medical are less about healthcare and more about talking people into giving birth.
Students for Life does not support Planned Parenthood. The organization cites research, like a clip from NBC news on YouTube, as evidence Planned Parenthood has a racist past, with the one goal of making money off of abortions.
Planned Parenthood offers many of the same services as Source Medical with the addition of abortion care and birth control. They also offer mammogram referrals and cancer screenings.
Conover says she has yet to hear of any Planned Parenthood that is equipped to provide those services.
Lawder said there are two types of Planned Parenthood facilities. One offers abortions, while the other provides all of their other services such as STI testing.
Anderson said his research has led him to believe Planned Parenthood was started as a eugenics project to stop the creation of minority babies. Poppe claims researchers have called Planned Parenthoods and requested to donate to an abortion for a mother of color.
“That is one of the top five stupidest things I’ve ever heard about Planned Parenthood,” Lawder said. "It is difficult to tell the difference between who really believes that versus those just adding to their agenda."
Knowles has received feedback from former patients of Planned Parenthood who say they were coerced into having an abortion and not given what Knowles considers the whole truth.
Poppe said the word that comes to mind when she hears Planned Parenthood is manipulative. From what Poppe has researched, Planned Parenthood employees use language such as fetus and clump of cells.
“We don’t take away people’s autonomy,” Lawder said. “Our doctors play a big role, and they’re physicians.”
Students for Life and Knowles see Justice Amy Coney-Barrett’s inauguration as hope for the illegalization of abortion.
If Roe v. Wade is overturned, Students for Life said the new administration should be prepared to remove funding from Planned Parenthood and fund more resources that have the goal to carry a baby to term.
If it the case is overturned, Students for Life acknowledges abortions will still happen, even if they’re not safe.
“Human trafficking and rape are illegal, and they’re wrong, but they still happen,” Conover said.
Poppe acknowledges the argument of anti-abortion citizens that illegal abortions are dangerous, but said there are both physical and psychological risks to all abortions.
If Roe v. Wade was to be overturned, Knowles reminds the community it’s up to the entire court to decide, and it will still be up to the states to decide if abortion care will be legal.
“I think that there were a lot of people that stood in opposition to her appointment out of fear of rights being taken away, and that was misinformation forwarded by a liberal press to try to insight people into activism against her when it doesn’t even hold any merit,” Knowles said.
In 2016, a total of 623,471 abortions for 2016 were reported to CDC from 48 reporting areas. Among these reporting areas, there was 11.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years. This is 46,964 fewer cases than in 2013. In 2013, there were 12.5 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years. Despite the drop, Students for Life still saw abortion as a key issue in this year’s presidential election.
Poppe, Conover and Anderson all voted for Donald Trump on Nov. 3 and said the group pledges to vote a pro-life ticket in every election, meaning only voting for candidates who support anti-abortion causes.
“It’s about validating that this is wrong and this is a person and you are violating them and their rights to be alive,” Conover said.
Students for Life will be hosting a March for Life at at 11 a.m. Jan. 30, 2021 starting at the Olive DeLuce Fine Arts Building and ending at Mable Cook Recruitment and Visitors Center.