[Editor’s Note: Lila Rose is a pro-life advocate and founder of Live Action, an activist group most famous for its undercover work exposing the seedier side of the abortion industry. In 2015, the Vatican representative to the United Nations, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, thanked Rose “for all her work in the defense of the unborn and for the enthusiasm with which she transmits and shares to so many young people the unconditional love for life in all its phases.” Ahead of the 2018 March for Life, she spoke to Charles Camosy about her work.]
Camosy: As one of the most prominent members of the U.S. pro-life movement, and founder of Live Action, many Crux readers will probably have heard quite a bit about you already. What is one thing from your background that readers might be surprised to learn?
Rose: I was not raised Catholic – I was raised in a Protestant home that had a lot of love for Jesus. My exposure to the Catholic faith happened by degrees – my Dad was on his own faith journey and discovered the Church fathers by first reading C.S. Lewis and then G.K. Chesterton.
My parents were a bit of an anomaly in the Bay Area Protestant church I was raised in – they had eight children, and were the largest family in our church growing up by at least a few children. I was also homeschooled, and my parents worked to design a classical education for me and my siblings by founding an academy for homeschool families. That included studying Latin from age seven, and translating articles from Thomas Aquinas’ Summa in and out of Latin. So, as you might imagine, I was being catechized without realizing it.
I remember going to a Catholic book store with my Dad when I was eleven or twelve, and being fascinated by the icons sold there – of Jesus, Mary and the saints, and it awakened a longing in my heart for the traditions of the Church, for a relationship with Mary, and for discovering Christ in new ways. I also picked up my first Mother Teresa book there, and her words in Loving Jesus deeply impacted me. After years of study and discovering more and move about the Church’s teachings, the sacraments, and having the profound realization that the Eucharist is Jesus’ body, blood, soul and divinity, I was confirmed into the Catholic Church while a sophomore at UCLA.
Having accomplished almost all of this before turning 30, you are obviously strongly connected to the coming generation of the pro-life movement. This generation, quite frankly, gives me a lot of hope. Is that your sense as well?
Absolutely. I think millennials and Gen Z [those born from the mid-1990’s and mid-2000’s] are open-minded, compassionate and concerned about justice and the well-being of others — even if we do not all have the education on what true justice may look like in an ordered society.
I think the power of tech to break down borders, share information, and connect the world more closely is part of the reason for that. Also, many in my generation and Gen Z come from broken families, and we long for connection and lasting intimacy.
Along with experiencing that hunger for connection, many millennials and Gen Zers did not have an upbringing that included formation in the truth about human identity, sex, life, and purpose. We don’t know what we don’t know. So, our tendency for open-mindedness often turns into a relativism that can have the opposite effect: We think absolute truth is an attack on human freedom, not the thing that, if known and lived by, enables human flourishing.
The good news is that once we explain the truth about human identity, about sex, and about life to our peers, and engage them in a respectful way, transformation often happens. When it comes to abortion, we see this time and time again with the millions of people Live Action reaches online every week — videos, stories and messages that explain the humanity of the preborn and the violence of abortion. We frequently hear, “I didn’t think about it this way,” “I didn’t know,” “I can’t support abortion anymore, I totally oppose it!”
One thing that currently plagues the pro-life movement is internal division, often related to secular left/right political commitments. Far too often, it seems to me, we mirror the debates in the broader political culture. When coming to know young pro-lifers like yourself, however, I have hope that this may change with the next generation. Not least because young pro-lifers, at least in my experience, are not as invested in left/right political battles. Do you think this hope is grounded in reality?
Yes. I think identity politics can be very destructive for meaningful dialogue and changing hearts and minds, on both the Left and the Right. Politics matter a great deal, but they are not the end-all for our movement. And they can be a stumbling block if people who identify as “liberal” think that to be pro-life you must be “conservative.”
These terms themselves — “liberal” and “conservative”— can be confusing, and can mask misunderstandings on both sides. While no democracy has the right to decide some innocent people will live and some will die, our nation has already wrongly allowed abortion. Because our laws currently allow abortion, we can’t restore legal protection for the preborn if the electorate is uneducated about abortion and human life.
Increasingly, I think the pro-life movement gets that and is working towards laying the foundation for a pro-life ethic through education. That’s what we are most passionate about at Live Action – recognizing the hunger, sometimes dormant, in this country for the truth delivered through media and relationships in a persuasive, respectful and persistent way.
You and I have talked about how a common commitment to the Catholic tradition can help bridge some of these gaps and heal some of these wounds. Would you share something about why you think that is the case?
Of course. Our identity should not be based on a political party, but on our relationship with Jesus as Catholics. The more I discover the rich wisdom of the Church – given to us through the Holy Spirit – the hungrier I am to share it. We should not look at America today as spheres of life that are religious vs. the non-religious. That is a false distinction.
The truth is the truth, accessed through philosophy, science and reason, as well as divine revelation. Science and reason inform the teachings of the Church, just as the teachings of the Church further explain what science and reason points to about the human person and our shared destiny.
I think the more we explain this to those that only see the Church as another religious institution, and the more we joyfully and persuasively share these truths about the human person, God, and the purpose of our lives, more and more souls will be drawn to the Church.
What is next for Live Action? For Lila Rose? How can Crux readers learn about and possibly support what you have going on?
Next for Live Action is continuing to build our content programs and distribution until every person is reached with the truth about abortion and human life in this country. This means creating the videos, campaigns, telling the stories, that transform public opinion.
This year, we will continue to grow our online presence, launch a more aggressive student outreach program, and create new video series designed to educate millennials and Gen Zers on abortion. My job is to help lead these programs, and to continue speaking, writing and advocating for the protection of all human life.
I’m also excited that I’ll be getting married this year to my amazing fiancé – and I hope to grow in love for God and others through the Sacrament of Marriage.