Senior Adelaide Holmes, president of Hillsdale College for Life, has always been pro-life, but it wasn’t until her sophomore year that she became a passionate pro-life advocate with Hillsdale College for Life. Her hard work has quadrupled club participation.
“Our goal has been to raise up pro-life leaders,” Holmes said, “because a lot of Hillsdale students are pro-life. They’re just not doing anything about it.”
Holmes’ passion was awakened by Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” in which he wrote about the church standing by and watching civil injustices happen. She said she “felt challenged” by it and wondered if she would have done anything.
“I realized that abortion is an even greater injustice and discrimination than the injustice of that time, and I was doing nothing to end abortion now,” Holmes said. “I threw myself into pro-life work to solve my conscience, and what was a penance became a passion and I love it.”
In the last four years, Hillsdale College for Life has gone from 20 or fewer members to more than 70 students attending each meeting. According to sophomore and club board member Carly Fisher, before Kathleen Russo ’19 took over the presidency, the club had disappeared completely.
“What really started the club up again was the March for Life trips,” Fisher said. “Everyone just got really excited about it.”
The club used to focus on educating people about the pro-life movement, but now it developes leaders in the movement and provides opportunities for pro-life activism. The club now offers semi-monthly apologetics training sessions, the Klusendorf Fellowship, and a trip to the March for Life in Washington, D.C. In the last two years, the club has also organized spring break trips, sponsored by the Susan B. Anthony List, in which students knock on doors and raise awareness about abortion.
“We’re a fairly unique pro-life club on campus because Hillsdale is such a largely pro-life campus, so our focus is less on trying to convince the people around us and it is more a public activism,” Fisher said. “It’s more equipping people on campus to actually do something about it. We want to get rid of any sort of apathy and show how we can exercise this.”
Fisher said the club added the Klusendorf Fellowship this year to “raise up the next generation of pro-life leaders.”
Freshman Lucy Cuneo joined the fellowship this semester, having done pro-life work throughout high school. Cuneo said growing up, her sister with Down syndrome informed her passion for the movement.
“The pro-life cause has always been important to me because oftentimes, for preborn with disabilities, the importance of their lives is misunderstood and discriminated against in the womb,” Cuneo said. “I’ve always had a real passion for the pro-life movement with protecting peoples’ lives and everything.”
In high school, Cuneo participated in the March for Life on the east and west coasts, volunteered with a pregnancy center, and participated in Forty Days For Life, a semiannual peaceful prayer protest outside abortion clinics. She said she is interested in continuing pro-life work outside of school and staying active, and the Klusendorf Fellowship seemed a perfect avenue.
“The fellowship seemed like a good way to connect with people who were interested in pro-life leadership and being more active in the movement,” Cuneo said. “We’re getting a more detailed look into pro-life apologetics. Whereas the Hillsdale College For Life group is going to apologetics videos about once a month, we’re getting a more detailed look on how to do that.”
Earlier this semester, Dean of Men Aaron Petersen stated at a meeting for club leaders that the purpose of campus clubs is education, not activism. Holmes said the club doesn’t do much activism anyway, but it was still important that the club fulfills the college’s guidelines.
“We did a chalking event last year in front of Central Hall, and I think the deans just want there to be a separation between the administration and the student body,” Holmes said. “One theme I got out of that conversation was the student body is different from the administration, so activism as a whole can be dangerous to project a certain notion on the college’s name.”
Holmes said the club is about “changing minds and hearts,” and it aims to transform students’ passion into action.
“Education requires a response of us,” Holmes said. “It’s really easy to say doing anything is activism, and maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not. But we’re here to learn, and if we learn something and don’t do anything about it, have we really learned anything?”