How did you become pro-life? Was there any particular moment of awakening? If so, when and how?
I would say I have always been pro-life because of my faith. But I really started getting involved in the pro-life movement in December 2020, right after the election of Joe Biden. The last couple of years made it clear how important it is to stand up for the pre-born. This is probably the most pro-abortion administration we have ever had. For instance, they have pushed for the expansion of chemical abortions. The Build Back Better plan is full of pro-abortion policies. There is the Women’s Health Protection Act— which we call the Women’s Health Endangerment Act because it is that harmful to mothers. Since then, I have become a more active part of the pro-life movement. I just got to see how the scientific reality of the unborn is totally different from the narrative.
You are in Medical Anthropology and aiming at a career in the medical field. I was wondering, how does your department handle these topics in class?
In class, they mostly try to avoid it. I have so far only had one class where we talked about abortion, and that’s just because I brought it up. For the most part, the professors try to avoid it because it is such an emotional topic for many people. It is something you actively have to push for to talk about it. But discussions about abortion certainly are never easy, especially not at this school. Most students at UVA are pro-choice and emotionally very invested in the topic. Others may personally oppose abortions but support other people having them. What I also see a lot is people who are pro-life but afraid to speak about it in school because of fear of being personally attacked for their beliefs. For example, when I ran for Student Council president last year, I was targeted a lot for being explicitly pro-life. But that is something I will never apologize for. That abortion destroys an innocent human life is a fact. Nothing I state is scientifically false. So, when I meet a person who is very pro-choice, it is mostly somebody who is emotionally hurting. Often, they have past experiences with abortions themselves or their parents or siblings had. I try to make them understand how harmful abortions are to so many people.
You are the founder of Future Medical Professionals for Life at UVA. Why did you found this organization?
I founded FMPFL in January 2021 because there is a massive push in med school to teach students how to perform abortions, or how they call it “terminating a pregnancy.” They don’t want doctors to see the unborn as something precious because abortion is a highly profitable business. It is the systematic exploitation of vulnerable people. When abortion was legally protected in 1973, there was a doctor named Mildred Jefferson. She was the first African American woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School, and she founded the National Right to Life Committee. During a hearing in Congress, she talked about how Roe v. Wade basically gave doctors the right to kill. But that is, of course, the antithesis to the Hippocratic Oath. We, medical professionals, are called to heal and protect. Abortion is the complete opposite of that. The first Hippocratic Oath clearly says to do no harm. I started FMPFL to bring back that level of integrity to the medical field.
Please explain what exactly your club is doing. How do you spread the pro-life message on Grounds?
We have been active for only fourteen months now and thus didn’t have the opportunity to establish ourselves as a major club on Grounds. But we have our ways of doing activism; first of all, education. We tell people about science, just basic stuff like how a new life forms in the womb. We try to use science to change people’s hearts and minds. Also, we talk to pregnant women and present them with alternatives that are life-affirming and non-violent. We closely work together with the local pregnancy resource centers, for example, the Focus-A Women’s Resource Center in Charlottesville. We also have a partnership with Students for Life of America. Last October, we hosted the first annual Virginia State College Pro-Life Conference. We invited all of the college pro-life groups in the state and many guest speakers. It was a great event. About six or seven different schools attended. Of course, we are planning to continue this in October. Also, we are working on starting a pregnant and parenting students’ scholarship. It is in its early stages, but hopefully, we will have it established by spring. We want to establish a scholarship that supports students who are having a hard time managing both university and family expenses. This point is very important. The abortion industry especially preys on young women who struggle financially between their family and school. They say that it is impossible to have a child and a career, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Many becoming mothers don’t even know about all the support the pro-life movement offers.
You said that one of your aims is to change hearts and minds. What, from your experience, are the best arguments to convince pro-choice people?
First of all, when having any conversation, it is always important to find something that both sides have in common. In this case, both sides agree that pregnant women need help. But we have different ideas of how to help them. What it mostly comes down to is that many people simply are not educated on what abortion actually is and how it is performed. Many people are pro-choice, but they don’t really understand what happens during an abortion. I mean, the whole process is terrifying. They think it is just a clump of cells, but the doctors are pulling an actual baby out: one arm, one foot, squeeze the skull and then pull it out. Hearing and understanding that is very helpful for people who are just unaware. But when it comes to people who had an abortion themselves, it is important to step back, listen, and try to understand where that person is coming from. Often, these people never had anybody who listened to their story. People want to be understood, they want to be cared for, they need support. And those people need to know that people are here to help them. Don’t be judgmental. Always see them as a person. Once people understand that you care about them, they are more likely to listen to you. It is all about using compassionate but honest phrasing. You should never hide the truth, but also you shouldn’t hurt other people. That is one successful strategy. I believe that the facts speak for themselves. The problem is that the pro-life movement of the 70s and 80s was very different from the one we have today. It was more aggressive and judgmental, very angry. Thus, it was easy for the other side to say that we only care about the baby but not the mother and the father. Also, science has progressed so much since then. We now can see the heartbeat starting at six weeks; pain at twelve weeks. People need to know that the movement has changed over time. But there still is a stigma against pro-lifers for being judgmental and not compassionate.
You already touched on it a bit, but one argument you often hear from the pro-choice side is that pro-lifers only care about the baby but not about the mother’s well-being. They claim that abortion is an issue of women’s rights and that men should have no say on the topic. How do you respond to these kinds of arguments?
Well, that’s two arguments. The first one is that pro-life people only care about the baby. But that’s not true. Again, this argument comes from a false understanding of what the pro-life movement is about. They don’t see that we offer care for both the pre-born baby and the parents. We offer services often up to when the child is two. We have many offers for food and housing, job support, parenting courses, and much more. There are a lot of people who honestly want to help. Many people don’t even know that we work in these fields, but we are working to improve the foster care and adoption system, have it streamlined and reformed to be a better alternative to abortion. I think many of these arguments stem from the propaganda that is being passed down by Planned Parenthood and other organizations that want to make a profit out of people’s hardship. They actively hide the pro-life alternatives to make the parents feel that they are on their own and that their only option is an abortion. To the second point, “my body, my choice,” the fact is that the child’s body is not her body. That is a scientific fact. A human being does not have twenty fingers and twenty toes. It is not the child’s fault that it is in a state of dependency. Between fetal status and birth, a child is most vulnerable. But it is right where it belongs.
Currently, the issue of abortion is again in the public spotlight. Next month, the Jackson v. Women’s Health Organization case goes to the Supreme Court. Politicians on both sides of the aisle are rallying up on the issue right now. Some say it may even overturn Roe v. Wade. I was wondering what your opinion on the case is. Do you think it will be successful?
I would say that I’m optimistic. This is the first case challenging Roe v. Wade going to the Supreme Court. It challenges the liability standard of Planned Parenthood vs. Casey in 1992. It’s been thirty years, and I think that we finally have a court that is sympathetic to life. I know that we have many judges on the court who are personally pro-life. So, now it is up to them to take a stand for what is right. There is no protection of a right to abortion under the 14th Amendment. It just isn’t there. Even Justice Ginsburg admitted that it is quite a stretch. So, yeah, I think that is going to happen. Sooner or later, Roe will be overturned. I hope and pray that this will be the case. But even if the Supreme Court overturns Roe, it is not over. Then, it would be up to every state to decide. Currently, there are about twenty-two states that are going to or at least are likely to make abortions illegal once it is overturned. Right now, we can look to Texas as a template for what that might look like. It is not a perfect system because abortion is still permissible until the heartbeat starts, but it shows what it might look like when Planned Parenthood is no longer funded with taxpayer money. It still is a long way from there, but I am optimistic.
What do you think will be the future of the pro-life movement in a possible post-Roe America?
We already have an outline for that. Basically, it means that we will be fighting 50 battles simultaneously. Politically, we will be focusing on state elections. We will fight for more resources for PRCs and reforms of the foster care and adoption system. But most of all, we have to focus on a cultural change before we can change the federal law.
Thank you very much for taking the time for this interview, Gavin. I believe you guys will be on the right side of history. Best of luck.