Students are well situated to re-emphasize the essential truths of the right-to-life position, says a leading U.S. pro-life educator.

Scott Klusendorf, director of the San Pedro, Calif.-based Stand to Reason organization, made the comments during the annual National Campus Life Network (NCLN) symposium Jan. 8-10 in Toronto.

Nearly 50 students from Canadian universities attended this year’s symposium. The event attracted delegates from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland.

The NCLN, now represented on 17 post-secondary campuses across the country, is an information exchange and support network for Canada’s pro-life undergraduate community. It is one of an expanding network of student pro-life associations.

In his weekend-long presentation to delegates, Klusendorf stressed the importance of pro-life leadership. He believes students in particular are poised to become effective leaders as the struggle to defend the unborn moves into the next century. Since taking on pro-life work nine years ago, Klusendorf has advocated increased training and preparation of right-to-life “apologists,” who can voice pro-life ideals compellingly.

“Where are those who are teaching our people how to think and how to articulate our view in the public square?” Klusendorf asked students. He said that despite the central truth of the pro-life message, the public has been misled by pro-abortion distortions. He also said a “post-modern culture” contributes to the problem by favouring appeals based on emotion rather than reason.

Klusendorf said up to 60 per cent of the North American public is in the “mushy middle” with respect to abortion. He said more pro-life apologists could readily convert this segment of the population to greater pro-life sympathy.

While acknowledging the commitment and dedication of mainstream pro-lifers, Klusendorf said there is some room for improvement. He said pro-lifers are “getting their butts kicked” because the movement is not perceived as professional. “The pro-life effort is largely made up of volunteers and part-timers who work on a shoe-string budget, while the pro-abortion side has enormous resources at its disposal,” he said. He added that the movement could benefit by an infusion of new ideas and a constant focus on its essential truth.

Klusendorf later urged student pro-lifers to consider a more radical commitment to the cause. He suggested the recruitment of more full-time pro-life workers who would bring continuity to the effort. “Babies are dying and we need to make the sacrifices necessary to stop it,” he said. “If we are going to succeed, we have to fundamentally change our actions and attitudes to show that we really believe babies are dying as a result of abortion.”

Klusendorf’s presentation included a number of strategies and debating techniques to deflate pro-abortion arguments and to avoid the pitfalls set by the “mainstream” media. He said a constant appeal to the humanity of the unborn child “trumps” all pro-abortion rationalizations.

The Klusendorf presentation incorporates a 280-page manual which uses newspaper articles, research papers, and other authoritative sources to drive home pro-life arguments. Klusendorf’s research is enhanced by the use of material prepared by authoritative sources to bolster various pro-life positions.

Underscoring all of Klusendorf’s arguments, however, is his reliance on the moral truth of the right-to-life position. “We need to make the moral case first and foremost,” he told students. “We have to establish the moral truth of our position if we are going to succeed.”

To that end, Klusendorf warned against any move to adjust the pro-life message to make it more palatable to a consumer culture. He said efforts to reframe the abortion debate away from the moral element would be disastrous for the movement.

Klusendorf’s appearance at this year’s symposium was a departure of sorts for the NCLN. Previous conferences featured a multitude of speakers and workshops emphasizing differing aspects of pro-life work. However, NCLN co-ordinating director Shendagh O’Neill explained that this year, the organization chose to make Klusendorf’s wealth of information available to its members. She hopes Klusendorf’s presentation will inspire delegates to share new pro-life insights with campus-based groups across the country.