by Matt Ausfahl
On Saturday, September 7, 2019 over one hundred pro-life activists gathered at U.C. Berkeley for the second annual Let There Be Life conference. A great opportunity to connect with others who are passionate for life, the event featured 16 talks given by both local pro-life leaders as well as national activists. As someone who is relatively new to the cause, this was my first time attending such a conference – and what a rich experience it was. The big-tent nature of our movement was well represented at the conference, which featured atheists from secular groups sharing the stage with people of faith. How refreshing to see people of all persuasions, political and otherwise, unite around the cause of life.
Highlights included hearing Walter Hoye share about the unjust persecution and prosecution he suffered for his peaceful witness outside an Oakland abortion clinic. The courage of this man, who on principle turned down a plea deal that would have spared him a month in jail, is truly remarkable. Eric Cochran, former software engineer at Pinterest, revealed the systematic bias and censorship towards the pro-life cause found in big tech companies (he was fired from Pinterest for whistleblowing). Dr. Michael New with the Charlotte Lozier Institute quantified recent legal and social trends in abortion, painting an overall positive picture of the real-world impact the movement has had and continues to exert (for example, the U.S. abortion rate continues falling, and is now 50% lower than it was in 1980). Wynette Sills from Californians for Life, who has spent years on the sidewalk, shared her insights and experience into what makes for an effective sidewalk advocate. Finally, the day was appropriately closed out by Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life. In his inimitable fashion, he reprised the stakes involved in the abortion debate and exhorted the audience to keep the faith and be steadfast in our advocacy work.
A consistent theme throughout the day was the call to courage, for each individual to count the personal cost of the struggle. As one of the speakers bluntly summarized the life of a pro-life activist: “Not liked by many; hated by more.” This is why the encouragement and unity that conferences like this foster is so important – together we are stronger. This movement may still be nascent in the eyes of most of our fellow citizens, who remain broadly pro-choice some 46 years after Roe, but our momentum is indisputable. Babies are being saved, hearts and minds won over to life, abortion clinics closed. Another 40 Days for Life campaign has just begun, this time in over 500 American cities. This conference no doubt served its purpose of galvanizing participants to stay the course in their tireless advocacy as we get closer and closer to that day when abortion is no more.