Christian college hosts Lila Rose speech as group of students stage ‘reproductive justice’ walkout

UPDATE, 2/9/23: When asked by the Santa Barbara News-Press to respond to the walkout and student objections to her invitation to speak, Live Action president and founder Lila Rose said:

It is not hateful to disagree with a person or to speak against the harm they are committing against others. It is also a basic tenet of the Christian faith, from the Ten Commandments to Christ’s greatest commandment, that we are not supposed to kill innocent people. That we are called instead to sacrificially love our neighbor. 

Abortion is the direct and intentional killing of a human being and violates the fundamental human rights of the child it destroys. 

2/7/23: An estimated 150 students at Westmont College in Santa Barbara walked out of a planned event on February 6 featuring speaker Lila Rose, president and founder of Live Action. Rose’s pro-life speech — encouraging students on the Christian campus to speak out and work against abortion — was part of the school’s chapel service, a thrice-weekly, mandatory worship service for students.

“This was definitely one of the most well-attended chapels ever,” a Westmont student in attendance told Live Action News. “I think almost every student was there so that would have been about 1200 students, and then we probably had 150 faculty, staff, spouses of staff. So my guess would be there were about 1400 people in the room and about 150 got up and left. The majority of people stayed.”

The walkout was preplanned and a social media post had been shared to invite students to join in the “Reproductive Rights Walkout.” The post claimed the walkout was “[i]n response to Lila Rose’s (and Westmont College’s) blatant sexism, disregard of women’s basic reproductive rights, anti-woman and anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, and lack of empathy for human suffering.” (Abortion is intentionally caused human suffering.) In addition, an email mimicking a college communication was sent out signed by “some students,” criticizing Rose for things like “sharing the stage” at summits where she, along with a variety of other speakers sharing a wide array of opinions, was invited to speak about the pro-life view. The email read, in part:

… [W]e believe that Mrs. Rose does not represent Westmont’s values of love and fair discourse…. The decision to host Mrs. Rose as a chapel speaker is deeply disappointing, and we fear that it will create a permanent stain on the reputation of the school. Mrs. Rose represents the kind of bad-faith, conservative Christian activism that currently plagues our politics and reflects poorly on many other followers of Christ…. Mrs. Rose’s entire living is seemingly made weaponizing Christianity for political gains. 

Lila Rose walkout

According to the pro-life student, at the start of the event, campus pastor Scott Lisea spoke briefly about why he is pro-life before Rose was introduced and took her place at the podium. As she did so, students began to exit the room.

Rose held her speech until those in protest had left, and then spoke about the Christian call to be actively pro-life, encouraging students and staff and reminding them that the Bible is clear that abortion is wrong.

“Our God is a God of justice,” said Rose. She went on:

Jesus, throughout the Gospels, is weeping over suffering and death. He weeps at the death of his friend Lazarus. He weeps when he looks over Jerusalem. The Gospel includes many of these scenes, but there is a particular kind of suffering that God hates. That God hates. And that is the suffering which is caused intentionally from one person to another. Human choice. Injustice. As a woman, as a mother now of two very beautiful young boys, as a feminist, as a Christian, it has been painful and infuriating for me to watch the popular narrative that’s being announced on news media, stations across the country, by powerful politicians, by our own governor — the popular narrative that we as women need abortion to be free. Killing a child is not freedom.

I do not, as a woman, have the right to kill, including a child totally dependent on me. Turning against our own flesh and blood kills part of us too. We must do better as a society. We must demand better as a society for mothers, for fathers, for women, for children. Both our faith and the moral law require that we pray, speak, and act against injustice, especially injustice against the most vulnerable and on behalf of fathers, mothers, and children.

Rose invited those in attendance to be active in their pro-life convictions, sharing three practical ways they can help. The first is to speak unapologetically against abortion. “Just as we are unapologetic against unjust police slayings, against poverty, against compromising those that are vulnerable, we must be unapologetically anti-abortion. Have zero tolerance for the killing of innocent human beings. That means speaking out against their deaths,” she said.

She also encouraged students to share resources with others and be a part of the solution to abortion by volunteering at pregnancy resource centers and organizations that support low-income families. She also suggested sharing post-abortion healing resources with women — because regardless of their decision to have an abortion, they are human beings who deserve compassion.

“And finally,” said Rose, “join the Live Action Ambassador program. […] Join the pro-life movement. This is a fight. This is the human rights battle of our day and it needs all of us.”

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Rose’s speech was the first time that Westmont College has taken a Biblical stand on such a controversial issue in her time there, said the aforementioned pro-life student in attendance. “It was really powerful, I think for a lot of people who had just been feeling silenced,” she said. “I heard a lot of students who said they felt they couldn’t say anything about this issue, but that they are really thankful that she came to campus because she brought the truth.”

Rose concluded her speech with a call to pro-life action: “St. Thomas Aquinas said, ‘The things that we love tell us what we are… Are we a people that can love our neighbor? Are we a people that can love the least of these? Are we a people that can love life? I challenge you to be that people.”

Editor’s Note, 2/9/23: This article has been altered since original publication.

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