‘There’s No More Important Fight … Than the Right to Life,’ Heritage Foundation President Says

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The following is a lightly edited transcript of remarks by Dr. Kevin Roberts, president of The Heritage Foundation, delivered at the 2024 National Pro-Life Summit, hosted by Students for Life of America, on Saturday at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Washington, D.C.

Look, thanks for inviting me to be here. What a tremendous program and how about a round of applause for Alison [Centofante], Kristan [Hawkins], everyone at Students for Life.

Most of all, from this old history teacher. Thank you for being the Students for Life. A round of applause for you.

I’m in a candid mood this week, so I’m going to be candid with you. Just got back from Switzerland, a place I never thought I would dread going in the battle for the soul and future of our nation. There’s no more important fight, as you know, than the right to life. And there’s no organization more important to winning that fight than yours.

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Today’s students for life are tomorrow’s parents for life. Teachers for life. Workers and entrepreneurs and doctors for life. And yes, think about this—legislators, governors, congressmen and even presidents for life. Maybe even the one singing now.

As the dad of four, I love that sound. We’re going to need them. We’re going to need all of you, for we meet today amid a pro-abortion media narrative of smug triumphalism. You’ve heard the story: Less than two years after the Supreme Court overturned Roe, the abortion industrial complex is celebrating an unprecedented political winning streak.

Across the country, pro-life bills have failed, abortion referenda have passed, Democrat leaders are crowing, while too many Republican leaders are cowering from the fight. The pro-life movement in general, and Washington Republicans in particular, were caught flat-footed by Dobbs. Our losses since—especially in red states like Kentucky, Ohio, Montana and Kansas—have been painful.

And like it or not, despite a handful of brave stalwarts, the GOP remains a fickle ally in the fight for the unborn. If it were up to the Republican establishment, the pro-life movement would simply go away. Thank God it’s not up to them. It’s up to you.

Long before the Dobbs decision, Students for Life understood that the fight for the unborn was generational. Like every great moral crusade, victory in the defense of unborn children and their mothers will be measured in decades, not mere election cycles.

And just like America’s other decisive battles for freedom, against segregation, against totalitarianism, against slavery, the fight for life is first and foremost spiritual. That’s what I want to talk to you about this morning.

If you’ve seen the schedule for today’s summit, you know it’s saturated with practical and tactical advice. That’s why you’re here, to learn those important practical skills that will help you defend the unborn through democratic advocacy. But as important as those resources are, ultimately, the fight for human dignity and freedom, this fight for the inalienable rights of every human soul, transcends politics.

We’re not fighting merely against a policy or a party, and we’re certainly not fighting against our opponents on the other side, all of whom we are called to love and pray for.

Remembering that reminds us that instead, we are in a fight against evil itself. St. Paul’s reminder to the Ephesians is timely and timeless. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, he wrote, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

This is an uncomfortable truth, I know, but set aside the talking points and the legalisms and ask yourself: What is abortion? It’s the contract killing of defenseless children by white-collar professionals for profit. It’s the invasion of the womb by instruments of torture and mutilation. It’s the ultimate treason, man’s betrayal of a mother, her child, and the natural and supernatural bonds between them.

In Genesis, God … “put enmity between [the serpent] and the woman,” between its offspring and hers. In abortion, the serpent puts enmity between the woman and her offspring, and the most powerful men in the world call this progress, for true evil, spiritual evil, is never satisfied with its own success.

Pride depends on degrading others. Unlike the agnostic who’s clouded by doubt, or the atheist blinded by hatred, the devil himself knows firsthand he cannot deny or replace God. Old Screwtape, as you know, learned long ago that the surest path to corrupting the souls of the strong is denying the humanity of the weak.

This, rather than the comparable body counts, is the evil that underlies mankind’s greatest horrors—every slave auction, every lynching, every concentration camp, every abortion mill, every pogrom, every terrorist bombing from the Middle East to Kermit Gosnell, from Herod to Hitler to Hamas, has been justified on the same inhuman pretense that the victims aren’t really people—that human dignity is not universal, not inherent to our nature, but contingent on the convenience to the powerful.

And the butcher’s bill of history is chillingly clear. Once a society deems certain individuals not fully human, it soon treats them as if they weren’t human at all. And it never stops with one group.

Consider the telling example of the pigs on George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” who declared some animals are more equal than others. Is it any surprise that the same party of death celebrating violence in the womb also justifies and even cheers the surgical mutilation of children, the euthanizing of the depressed, the persecution of parents and churchgoers, even a genocidal war to exterminate the Jewish people?

Make no mistake: This idea of human inequality that some people count and some people don’t doesn’t come from the media or the government or the elite or the Left or even Planned Parenthood. It comes straight from hell.

Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do. God bless the Dobbs majority, the Dobbs majority, and the men and women who fought for decades to put them there. But they would be the first to tell you, we can’t defeat evil with court orders. The only weapon powerful enough to do that is love. Active love.

Building a culture of life means rebuilding a culture of love—in our communities, across our nation, and around the world. This is not a project of just political activism, as important as that is, but of relentless spiritual warfare. Generation Life is not only something young Americans can create, it’s something you must become.

No party or president will build a culture of life for us. We have to do that all the time, every day, in everything we do.

Through prayer, Scripture, and devotion. Through fellowship and vocation. In the heroic, spiritual adventure of falling in love, getting married. And yes, having lots of kids.

To paraphrase St. Francis of Assisi, fight for life at all times. When necessary, use words.

Nor can this work be reactive, simply responding to the outrages of the party of death. On the contrary, we need to build a culture of life so vibrant that the outnumbered party of death has to respond to us.

Generation Life needs to transcend the abortion debate and carry its love for the good, the beautiful and the true into every nook and cranny of our society.

Don’t wait. Act. Act, like 15-year-old Kristan Hawkins, who sought out the Crisis Pregnancy Center in her hometown and volunteered, who in her high school and then her college lacked a pro-life student group, started one, who transformed Students for Life—from a small coalition of campus organizations to a culture-shaping crusade that has touched the lives of millions of Americans.

This is what Generation Life can look like—and must. Today, there are 4, 000 crisis pregnancy centers in America. Generation Life can create 10, 000, including one on every college campus in this country.

Today, we bristle against a popular culture that degrades women, children and families. Generation Life can lead a renaissance of arts and entertainment that celebrate and promote human dignity. So, as I close here, to those of you in college, yes, bring pro-life speakers to your campus. But more importantly, be the pro-life speakers on your campus.

Suffuse, suffuse the world around you with your own love of life in all its forms. To fight evil, we must do good. And to do good, we must be good.

Let pundits and politicians worry about strategies and tactics. You can aim higher. Don’t wait for leaders to make pro-life policymaking possible. Be the leaders in your classrooms, in your campuses, in your families and social circles, in your careers, and all across American culture, to make pro-life policymaking inevitable in this spiritual war for our children and for our very souls.

We need you, Generation Life, to be more than our hope for the future. Starting right now. Right now. We need you to be the heroes of the present. May God prosper the work of your hands. Amen.

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