NORTHFIELD, Minn. The Equipped for Life Course from the Equal Rights Institute completely revolutionized the way that my college pro-life group (Students for Life at St. Olaf) operates and enabled us to make a dramatic impact on our campus.
Before encountering ERI, our group had a very difficult relationship with our school’s administration, and the pro-choice atmosphere on campus was extremely intimidating and hostile towards our group. Any display or poster we put up was inevitably vandalized or torn down, and the administration did little to help us. One fall, dozens of pro-choice students lined the hallways of our student union, protesting that our college allowed the Northfield Women’s Center (our local pregnancy resource center) to host their annual fundraising banquet on campus.
Everything changed when we discovered the Equipped for Life Course. The summer after our first year, the Northfield Women’s Center reached out to us and introduced us to Equal Rights Institute (ERI), a national pro-life organization that trains pro-life advocates to “think clearly, reason honestly, and argue persuasively.” The women’s center offered our group the opportunity to go through ERI’s Equipped for Life Course, an online pro-life apologetics training course.
After taking the course, our group was both relieved and excited that we finally had good answers to the many tough pro-choice questions that we had been faced with on campus, and we knew how to foster conversations about abortion that would be both respectful and productive. Soon after, we started doing outreach on campus, engaging pro-choice students in conversation. As emphasized in the ERI Course, we always prioritized listening to the other person and showing genuine compassion, while graciously making logical and persuasive pro-life arguments.
We’ve been engaging our campus in respectful and productive dialogues about abortion for over two years now, and the results have been astounding. Vandalism rarely happens now, and when it does, the administration responds immediately offering their “deepest apologies” and “applaud[ing] your organization’s effort to keep our community informed despite those who work against the freedom of information sharing.”
The Northfield Women’s Center held their annual fundraising banquet on our campus in the fall of 2019, and there wasn’t a single protestor.
We’ve heard pro-choice students defend and complement our club to other students and professors, valuing the manner in which we approach conversations with people that disagree with us.
One student expressed frustration with the general unwillingness of people on campus to engage with people who disagree with them, saying, “I think that in our classrooms, way too few people are willing to engage productively with people with different viewpoints. But I don’t think that’s true everywhere on campus. Like, you’ve all seen that group that speaks against abortion? I think what they’re doing is really awesome. Like, I’ve talked to them and I know multiple of my friends have too, and I don’t know anyone who has ever had a bad experience with them. They’re doing an amazing job trying to promote productive dialogues on campus and really trying to get people with different ideas to talk to each other. I just wish the rest of campus could be more like them!”
We’ve even helped pro-choice students actually change their minds about abortion. Our Co-President, Emily Albrecht, will never forget watching the realization wash over “Anna’s” face as she declared, “I never thought I’d be saying this, but I think I have to be pro-life now! Like, I cannot come up with any good things to say against a single argument you’ve made. I genuinely can’t come up with a reason I shouldn’t be pro-life!”
Between the change in campus attitudes towards our club, the renewed relationship with the school administration, and the college students that have become pro-life after having conversations with us, it is clear that the ERI method and the grace of God have made a deep impact on our campus.
Last year, we were blessed to welcome Josh Brahm, the President of the Equal Rights Institute, to the St. Olaf campus, where he participated in a full day of outreach with our members and filmed a video highlighting the amazing things that have happened on our campus as a result of ERI (link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAsOzyg7M2c).
As part of our mission to teach more pro-life advocates how to foster productive dialogues about abortion, some of the members of Students for Life at St. Olaf, along with the president of St. Norbert Knights for Life, collaborated in putting on a virtual seminar to teach content from ERI’s Equipped for Life Course this past summer. We are passionate about helping other pro-lifers learn the ERI approach to pro-life apologetics, as we want to enable them to make a profound impact on their campus or in their workplace environment like we have made in ours. Given that a single good conversation can have such a profound impact, we want everyone to put these methods into practice to change minds, foster a culture of life, and ultimately save lives.