Students for Life Must Denounce Punishment for Abortion


Students for Life claims to be “the nation’s largest youth pro-life group.” With student chapters across the country and a stated goal to “abolish abortion,” organizational and student leaders have offered a range of disturbing and sometimes contradictory statements in response to the question of whether to punish women who have abortions.

Fighting to “abolish abortion” is non-sensical, because abortion will always exist. However, ensuring that laws do not allow for abortion are ultimately advocating for a society in which women are punished for abortions. In 2018, one of Students for Life’s staff members wrote that if Roe were overturned women would “be safer” and that “women will not be criminalized.”  But women are already facing punishment for self-managing their own abortions. In 2015 in Indiana, Purvi Patel was sentenced to 20 years in prison for self-managing her own abortion. While her sentence was eventually reduced, people across the United States are facing similar threats for ending a pregnancy.

With the ongoing criminalization of abortion as well as new bills, laws, and political realities that move the states and indeed the country ever-closer to Students for Life’s goal of making abortion illegal, you’d think Students for Life would have an official stance regarding punishment for abortion. Our latest video shows this is not the case. Unfortunately, some student leaders with Students for Life showed us at the 2019 March for Life just how callous they can be about putting women in jail.

Recently, we used direct action to protest outside a Students for Life Fundraising gala in New York City, where anti-abortion supporters of the organization paid as much as a thousand dollars per seat to celebrate the Covington Catholic students who were videoed in a standoff with an Indigenous elder at the March for Life this year. Rather than responding to the ‘Stop Prosecuting Abortion’ signs we held at this action, Students for Life President Kristan Hawkins said to our team, “We’re going to make so much money off this!” Later, she wrote in a follow-up email about the event: “We also gathered to re-charge our batteries over the battle over abortion we know is coming in America. The protestors [from Reproaction] who joined us at the Gala certainly reminded us of that.”

This snide dismissal of jail time as punishment for abortion should not be tolerated. Sign our petition to remind Students for Life that no one should be punished for having abortion and demand they take an official stance against punishing people for having abortions.

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