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Students for Life rally outside the Supreme Court.
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Students for Life rally outside the Supreme Court.

Prayers for the nation’s highest court

Supreme Court | Pro-life activists gathered outside the Supreme Court on Thursday morning to await a decision on the Hobby Lobby case and pray for mercy

WASHINGTON—You wake up in a hospital bed. A strange man lies next to you. Doctors come in and explain they’ve connected your circulatory system to the unconscious body of a world-class violinist. If you stay in the bed for nine months, he will recover, and you both can leave. Otherwise, just pull the plug. He dies, but you go free.

“The pro-aborts use that all the time,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life (SFL), in a conversation about abortion. She added there’s just one small problem in comparing the captive blood donor to a real, pregnant mother: “It’s her child. It’s not this random stranger she doesn’t know. That’s half of her DNA, that child.”

Hawkins rallied outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday with dozens of other pro-life activists. As the sun shone off white marble steps and sent sweat trickling down backs, these young men and women stood praying, singing, and waiting for a decision from the Court on Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby. The Christian-owned craft chain faces possible penalties for defying a government mandate to provide abortifacient drugs to their employees. The justices did not issue a ruling on Thursday, but activists stuck around to remind federal officials that the pro-life movement—along with believers in the First Amendment’s religious protections—are alive, loud, and here to stay.

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Since 2006, SFL has started more than 700 pro-life student groups on high school and college campuses. Hawkins and her peers train American youth in pro-life apologetics so they can leave “little seeds of doubt” in the minds of people comfortable with abortion. SFL members share chilling statistics: 3,000 abortions are scheduled today in the United States. Nearly 1 in 4 of this nation’s pregnancies now end in abortion.

Tina Whittington, SFL’s executive vice president, said she married into the pro-life movement. Her husband was once an “adamant pro-choicer,” but he ditched the title and became a Christian by the time they met. “Our first date was going to an abortion clinic and praying, and then we went out to bagels and coffee afterwards,” she said.

President Barack Obama argued that the 2012 contraceptive mandate was a step toward workplace equality, but Hawkins condemned it as a subtle form of discrimination. “We do not need corporations to be forced to violate their religious or philosophical beliefs to provide nine-dollar-a-month birth control to make us equal to men,” she said before kicking off a prayer vigil.

Erin Stoyell-Mulholland from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, also at Thursday’s rally, said the Obama administration’s perspective is wrong: “The government shouldn’t be telling me … that the way my body functions is wrong, that my fertility is a disease. Because it’s not. It’s beautiful, and that’s the way I was created.”

The contraceptive mandate wasn’t these pro-lifers’ only concern. McCullen v. Coakley, another case on the Supreme Court docket, threatened the right of pro-life activists to approach women outside Planned Parenthood clinics and remind them they have other options. An hour into the rally, while a semicircle of students sang “Amazing Grace,” two Court staffers ran down the building’s steps to deliver the justices’ unanimous decision in favor of pro-life sidewalk counselors. The crowd exploded with cheers.

Activists from the National Organization for Women (NOW) showed up to protest the decision.“I have my right to walk into the clinic knowing that I’m not going to be killed or seriously injured, because that’s illegal, and that’s completely unacceptable,” said protestor Kate Starr. She didn’t mention the rampant killings and fatal injuries happening inside the clinics.

Hawkins spoke of her time near abortion clinics as an opportunity for compassion, not harassment. She first volunteered at a pro-life women’s help center as a 15-year-old: “That’s really where my heart began, just seeing these women who are broken.” Encounters with wounded women made her wonder: “What is going on in your life? How can we help you to change your life?”

The Supreme Court will issue its decision in the Hobby Lobby case on Monday, the last day before their summer sabbatical. Casey Mattox, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, assessed the potential damages of a ruling against the Christian business: “You then live in a world where corporations are told to focus on their profits, and not focus on anything else.”

Whittington was hopeful in God’s power as the Ultimate Judge to prevent such a stifling of religious liberty. “If they’re still writing it, God only knows what in that eleventh hour someone could change,” she said. “If we can petition the Lord, and the Holy Spirit can change hearts, which I believe can happen, then it was worth it to be here today.”

Ryan Hill
Ryan Hill

Ryan is a World Journalism Institute intern.

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