Denver Newsroom, May 29, 2021 / 03:01 am (CNA).
Earlier this month Lila Rose, president of Live Action and pro-life human rights activist, published Fighting for Life: Becoming a Force for Change in a Wounded World. In her book, Rose talks about her personal life and public activism with the pro-life movement. CNA had a chance to talk with her on Thursday.
Congratulations on publishing your book, Fighting for Life, earlier this month! What feedback have you received about the book so far?
My favorite feedback has been from women of all ages that the book gave them the extra inspiration and clarity to get involved, and that they could really relate to a lot of the struggles I shared and the tools that I provided for how to overcome those struggles when you’re feeling a sense of calling to stand up for what’s right in some of the most important social and political battles of today.
There’s sometimes a sense of helplessness around how we can make a difference, which is exactly why I wrote the book. I wanted to both provide instruction for what’s going on in the abortion industry and the climate battle, a larger perspective on what’s our personal response to the most burning causes of the day.
What was your motivation for writing Fighting for Life?
For years now, I have been asked, “How are you doing what you’re doing? Where do you find the courage? How did you learn how to build your organization, and do the activism you’ve done and be effective?” I also had been thinking about writing a book about all my findings in the abortion industry and my own personal life. I wanted to wait for the right moment when I felt I had enough experience to really provide the full picture of what it looks like to discover your calling, build a strong foundation, and have the tools to really pursue it.
There was a particular moment in time when I felt, “This is the moment.” There is unprecedented progress being made in the pro-life movement right now, and there’s also unprecedented attacks from the pro-abortion side. I thought more than ever, we need moral clarity and inspiration to fight for children, and fight for our culture and our families.
How long did it take you to write the book, and how did you balance writing along with running and organization and being a wife and mother?
In some ways, the book has been developing in my soul over the last decade. There is so much writing that I had already done because I’d been thinking about writing this book and putting together the pieces of advice and the lessons I wanted to share with others.
There was a moment during the pandemic when I had more time than I did before because of travel being cancelled—it was really an opportunity to finally finish it. There was this quietness between the pandemic and being a new mom that helped me pour myself out more and really complete the work.
It was the right timing, and then knowing that this was the time to share this book because of what’s happening in our country and the need for people to get in the fight.
How did you get started as an activist and why was the pro-life movement so important to you?
There were a lot of moments that were turning points for me, but two of them were particularly defining for me. They had to do with heartbreak and moral clarity. I talk about this a lot in Fighting for Life because anybody who sees injustice in the world, or who sees our culture or politics and they’re concerned, has to allow themselves to really be heartbroken. Real social change requires heartbreak.
For me, I learned that lesson really early on by having my heart broken when I was reading a book on abortion. The book included an insert that had images of children in the womb, beautiful embryology, and it also had images of children who were abortion victims. I saw for the first time a child who had been ripped apart by powerful first-trimester suction abortion, which is 30 to 50 times more powerful than a household vacuum cleaner. Looking at that image, I was heartbroken over it—that this was still happening—that it was socially accepted and legal.
Then, I went to an abortion clinic at age 14 to pray outside Planned Parenthood with some friends. That was another deeper moment of heartbreak and helplessness, looking at all the young women and girls, some of whom visibly pregnant, going into this brick building that killed babies up to six months old, 24 weeks. I remember thinking, “I’m within yards of these children being torn into pieces, and there’s no recourse, society is accepting this.”
Those feelings of heartbreak and helplessness and anger over what was being done would inspire me to just start trying to do things to educate others and save lives, ultimately leading to starting Live Action. The key was to just keep trying, keep experimenting, keep learning, and to not give up because this was a calling I couldn’t opt out of. I couldn’t ignore the crisis. I had to do something.
In today’s secular culture, we see a lot of push-back against the pro-life movement. What keeps you going?
Heartbreak is an inspiration because if you allow yourself to be affected by the plight of those we are fighting for, the pushback is put into perspective. Having perspective on the obstacles I’m facing has been essential to not letting them get me down, and I talk about that a lot in the book.
There are also very practical things that have helped me, which I also share in Fighting for Life—things like having heroes in my heart as examples of what I aspire to, and having mentors who I meet with regularly to help me grow as a person, so that I am stronger and have more grit to handle obstacles.
One other key is the mindset of, “Everything that is worth fighting for will require a willingness to make mistakes and get back up again.” Many times we opt ourselves out of trying because we think we’re not qualified or we don’t have what it takes. The way to grow as human beings—and I talk a lot about personal transformation in the book—starts with changing ourselves and allowing ourselves to be changed.
What have you found to be hopeful or optimistic about in the pro-life movement in the last several months?
There are huge reasons to be, not just optimistic, but to see that our movement is more successful than ever. The abortion rate has declined in the last 10 years and is at the lowest level in decades. There has been unprecedented pro-life legislation at the state level in the last two years with over 600 bills introduced and dozens that have passed. The Supreme Court has the most potential in decades to actually make a ruling that would acknowledge what science reveals—that life begins before birth and holds to the principle that all humans have human rights, and the first right is life.
There has been tremendous energy, enthusiasm and growth of the pro-life movement in the last decade or two. More people are educated than ever, more people are connected than ever and activated than ever. Success is possible. It is possible to abolish abortion.
We will see a swell of articles, campaigns, events from pro-abortion activists, led by Planned Parenthood, over the next several months because they are worried. The pro-life movement is stronger than ever.
What is something you wish everyone understood about abortion and the pro-life movement?
Everyone has the opportunity to think about abortion without the political hot takes that often color our mindsets around it. Take a moment to think about when life begins—which is a scientific fact, not a religious belief—at the moment of fertilization, when an egg is fertilized by a sperm and you have a unique human life that comes into existence with its own unique DNA and its own unique ability to grow.
I wish everyone had an opportunity to look at what an abortion does to that child. We’ve sanitized abortion in our culture so much. We’ve set it aside as some medical procedure that’s necessary and even a positive without ever confronting what it does. Abortion is ugly and not just because it’s gory, and it is gory. Abortion is ugly because it’s a proceedure designed to slaughter a human being and to kill a living human being.
I wish people had an opportunity to see that if they believe in human rights, which I think most people do, and they believe that no innocent human should ever be intentionally killed, then they could see that that is what abortion does.
The pro-life movement is invested daily in caring for children, born and pre-born, and their mothers. The thousands of pregnancy centers that exist today don’t make money on saving lives. They spend money to save lives and then they spend more money to help young moms, and to provide material and financial care to connect them to job opportunities and to shelter them. There are thousands of us who are adopting and fostering, and supporting families that are adopting and fostering.
To say that the pro-life movement doesn’t care about children is this vicious lie and is very ironic coming from activists who are actively fighting for the right to kill children.
What’s your advice for women seeking to stand against the tide and start something new?
It’s natural to feel nervous—there definitely were lots of moments where I felt nervous. God created you with your particular gifts, even the struggles you are facing, and with your particular sense of justice. You have a call on your life.
If you’re willing to take that step, even though it can be scary, and then not give up the next day and take another step, all you need to do is one step. You’re not going to arrive in a day. It took me years to build Live Action. You only have to do what you can do today, but try something. I have a whole chapter called “Just Start” about this.
The grace for what you are called to do, you will find it as you try to say, “Yes,” as you try to respond to the call and actually take that step. Don’t let your thoughts stop you before you’ve even started.
Anytime there is an injustice in our society, it takes time and work and some suffering to root out that injustice. You have what it takes and there are people who are with you. Take some time to find them. If you’re only surrounded by people who don’t share your values, it’s going to be hard to grow. Find your team!
What else would you like readers to know about yourself, your book, or your passion?
I talk a lot in the book about exploring mental health issues and our personal development—how we grow in virtue, how we grow in our skills in having healthy relationships, and also the need to be healthy mentally as well as physically. This is connected to the success we’re going to have in our calling.
We all have different stages in our journeys and we all have different wounds, but we all have wounds. I’m really real about some of my wounds and struggles in my book, and I talk a lot about help and healing, and trauma and mental health issues. Those aren’t talked about enough, and if we’re willing to be vulnerable and get the help that we each need—whether we have a mental health issue or just a personal struggle—we are so much better prepared to make the difference we’re called to make.
That’s a really big message in Fighting for Life, and I want that to be of service to other Catholics. I think as Catholics we think we’ve got the faith, we’ve got the moral truth, and that’s it. Now, we have to go do our apostolate, our mission work. Yes, but we’re human beings with wounds, emotions, personal experiences and struggles, and we need to approach our own path to growth holistically. That includes our mental health too.