Update: Two hundred high schools and 80 colleges participated in the pro-life walkout described below — but there was little or no local or national media coverage of these events.
Hundreds of pro-life high school and college students are walking out of their classrooms this morning for 17 minutes to protest abortion — and to honor the lives lost to the brutal procedure.
Inspired by California high school student Brandon Gillespie — a teen who was inspired to take a stand after teacher Julianne Benzel was suspended March 14 for posing a hypothetical question about a potential pro-life walkout — students from up to 200 high schools and 80 colleges indicated they would walk out of their classrooms, a spokesperson for the event told LifeZette.
Gillespie, 17, has two goals when it comes to the National Pro-Life Walkout, according to event organizers.
He wants to see if a double standard exists for pro-lifers when it comes to freedom of expression and protest — and he is standing up for life, period.
“Brandon decided, ‘Let’s have a national walkout at 10 a.m. on April 11th, across all time zones, that will last 17 minutes,'” Kristi Hamrick, Nashville-area spokesperson for the pro-life Students for Life of America (SFLA) told LifeZette. “In that regard, they [the pro-life student advocates] really paralleled the anti-gun march. The reality is the schools can’t open the doors for one type of walkout, and close them for another.”
The students are also taking a stand against Planned Parenthood. “We will no longer tolerate legal abortion in our nation, which has killed more than a fourth of our generation,” the walkout’s event page says. “We will no longer watch as our leaders in Washington continue to fund our nation’s largest abortion vendor, Planned Parenthood, with more than $500 million of our taxpayer dollars. We will no longer permit Planned Parenthood and their allies in the abortion industry to target our peers for their predatory business cycle.”
Organizers of today’s walkout say the choice of 17 minutes has significance: It takes 17 minutes for Planned Parenthood to abort 10 babies on any given day.
Last month’s national anti-gun walkouts generally lasted 17 minutes –– one minute to commemorate each victim of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings. The 17 minutes in which pro-life students are out of the classroom today will be filled with both silence and prayer. Pro-life advocates and education professionals see a solid rationale for the nationwide walkout.
“As an pro-life advocate and an education advocate, I would need very special reasons to support student walkouts, and this rises to the level,” former crisis pregnancy center volunteer Jean Purcell of Columbia, Maryland, told LifeZette. “In the case of pro-life issues, I would support these young people, and for a very simple and profound reason: These kids know that thousands, at least, of their peer group have been aborted — that is, violently and purposefully denied life. Walking out is about life at the most basic level.”
School administrators have pushed back against the walkout.
A Rocklin Unified School District spokesperson told CNS News that while the pro-life students will not face disciplinary action, the school will not officially sanction the event. Apparently it isn’t “viewpoint-neutral.” Previously, the district had decided that the national anti-gun walkout was a “viewpoint-neutral special event,” however.
Hamrick said the school did not give the teachers flexibility in lesson planning for students who wanted to participate in the Wednesday walkout — and they were not allowed the use of school sound equipment. The school had granted these accommodations to the anti-gun activists.
Rocklin High School Principal Davis Stewart called the pro-life walkout “controversial,” Gillespie told Avamariaradio.net.
“I came right back at him [and said] the other walkout was very, very controversial,” Gillespie said. “I think everyone knows the previous walkout was for gun control. I told him it was being advertised as a gun-control walkout.”
“Abortion data indicate that one-quarter of millennial and Generation Z has been lost to abortion. It’s a tragedy that deserves a memorial.”
The Life Legal Defense Foundation sent Stewart a letter on Monday, requesting equal treatment for Gillespie in the pro-life walkout.
The school newspaper’s student editor isn’t too thrilled with the walkout, either — or doesn’t see the point. “Abortions aren’t really anything that has to do with school or students here,” Naeirika Neev told the CBS Sacramento station. “They have their First Amendment, they can go protest about that anytime anywhere,” she said.
And that is just the point. Pro-life students feel that the loss of life from abortion is worth the protest.
“The CDC says that all deaths from teenagers number 133,000, but millions die from abortion,” said Hamrick. “Abortion data indicate that one-quarter of millennial and Generation Z has been lost to abortion. It’s a tragedy that deserves a memorial.”
Deirdre Reilly is a senior editor at LifeZette.