Unlikely beginnings for young pro-life leaders

  • December 2, 2010
Richmond MillsOTTAWA - Lia Mills and Rebecca Richmond never suspected they would one day be at the forefront of the pro-life movement.

But circumstances have conspired to make it so.

The two recently shared their stories at the International Pro-life Conference held in Ottawa.

For Mills, her step into the breech came when she gave a speech on abortion to her seventh grade Toronto class two years ago. It was recorded and uploaded to YouTube where it has gone viral. Richmond, on the other hand, merely intended to bake cookies to support her university pro-life group. She never thought she would become the group’s leader and eventually the executive director of the National Campus Life Network, mentoring leaders across the country.

When Mills, 14, chose to talk about abortion, her teacher told her the subject was too big and too controversial and suggested she find another. When Mills insisted she must talk about abortion, her teacher told her she would be eliminated from an upcoming speech contest. Mills went ahead and her teacher said she would allow her into the contest if she took out one sentence that made reference to God.

“Since God originally told me to do the topic on abortion, how could I take Him out?” she asked. The teacher relented.

During the contest, “one of the judges stepped down and refused to listen,” Mills said. But that reaction paled in comparison to what followed. The video of her speech on YouTube drew “so much backlash and opposition” that online comments included death threats and negative remarks about her faith and her family. The video has received one million views so far.

“I was stepping into a spiritual battle I was not aware of.”

But Mills and her family decided not to avoid the conflict. 

“We have to embrace (conflict) in the right way,” she said, noting anger and frustration are wrong ways to respond.

Mills has since posted three videos on YouTube on abortion, and has also given a speech on euthanasia. She urged young people to respond to God’s call, trusting He will help them even if they think the problems are too big for them. 

“Some things will only change when I become willing to change the status quo.”

Richmond has faced her own battles in getting the pro-life message across. Her main concern is the growing censorship of pro-life clubs on university campuses.

Recently, she witnessed the arrest of five students on the Carleton University campus after they tried to mount a display contrasting graphic pictures of abortion with pictures from recent genocides. She watched as Carleton Lifeline president Ruth Lobo and four others were hand-cuffed and “taken away in a paddy wagon.” She could not believe this was happening in Canada.

Richmond said pro-life students across the country have faced discrimination on campus even for holding debates. At Toronto’s York University, a debate was banned because the pro-life position was deemed “hate speech” and similar to having a debate about whether a man should beat his wife, she said.  

Richmond said the pro-life message will “always face censorship in every medium.”

Richmond has found much support in the National Campus Life Network she now leads. It gave her ideas, advice and guidance for successful events.

“It is essential to have the pro-life message on campus because the majority of abortions are performed on university-aged students,” she said. “University pro-life students have a unique ability to save lives.”

The university is also preparing future leaders in a whole range of fields, she said, so it is important to reach them so they can make a difference.

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