Melody Durrett is an eighteen-year-old sophomore at Linn-Benton Community College in Albany, Oregon. While she grew up in the pro-life movement with her family, it wasn’t until she attended a local pro-life camp that she began to understand the reality and magnitude of abortion and began her own pro-life ministry on her college’s campus. Now she’s leading an active pro-life group, interning at some of the nation’s best pro-life organizations, and inspiring others to get involved.
What inspired you to get involved in the pro-life movement?
When I was sixteen I attended Camp Joshua, Oregon Right to Life’s pro-life training camp for high school- and college-aged students. There I learned the horror of abortion for the first time.
My family is pro-life, and from the age of 5, I grew up attending the Walk for Life in our community every year. I asked strangers, with form in hand, if they wanted to “give money to save the babies” (the money was for our local pregnancy alternatives center). However, the magnitude and weight of abortion never fully hit me until I saw abortion victim images.
I remember on the last night at Camp Joshua, I listened to a panel of post-abortive women speak. I could see their deep pain as they spoke, and I realized that not only has abortion killed a fourth of my generation, but it also hurts women immensely. I knew at that moment that I was called to be a tireless advocate for the unborn and for women.
What do you do to support life and defend the pre-born?
My first term at community college, I worked with a friend to start the first-ever pro-life club on our campus. I have now completed my second year at that college, and the pro-life club has grown immensely. Our group is always busy, but lately we have hosted the Planned Parenthood Project, a display exposing the abortion industry; set-up several Cemetery of the Innocents displays; and done phone banking for pro-life candidates during elections. We also find ourselves frequently hosting campus-wide pro-life movie nights, as well as sidewalk-counseling and praying outside abortion clinics.
In the fall, our group will be hosting a speaker who was conceived in rape, as well as launching our own chapter of Students for Life of America’s Pregnant on Campus initiative, a campaign to provide resources and make them known to young women facing unplanned pregnancies. In addition, I have just completed an internship with Students for Life of America, as a 2014 Missionary for Life.
What is your favorite tool to communicate the pro-life stance?
My favorite tool is dialogue. Honest, open, caring, one-on-one conversations with people who call themselves pro-choice are my favorite and are the most exciting part of working in the pro-life movement. These conversations have proven to be so vital to our group creating a culture of life on our campus.
What are some ways students can be active in their pro-life work during school breaks?
Summer is the perfect opportunity to experience the pro-life movement! I recently arrived back home in Oregon, after spending nine weeks in Washington, D.C. interning with Students for Life of America, Americans United for Life, and Rock for Life. There are so many opportunities, likely in your hometown — volunteer or intern at your local pregnancy resource center or at your state or county Right to Life group. They are always happy to have young people on board, and you will learn a lot about where and how you are suited to serve in the pro-life movement. I know I did!
Share with us an encouraging event or a success story from your work.When our campus group held an event where we invited women to come and share the stories of their abortions, I was encouraged by the campus turnout. It was such a successful event because of the thought-provoking questions our audience brought. I was also pleasantly surprised by how the event stirred our campus as whole. Even while advertising for the event, handing out fliers to people, we had many opportunities to talk to people who were curious about how abortion harms women.
Share with us an encounter with pro-abortion opposition and how you faced it.
While interning with Students for Life this summer, I had the opportunity to talk with a woman passing by on the street about why she believed that abortion is needed for women. She thought abortion is okay because the pre-born child is “just a clump of cells.” I was able to share with her how the pre-born are human, alive, and distinct from their mothers, and that is why they deserve human rights. I also shared with her some simple fetal development facts, such as that around day 21, the unborn has a heartbeat. She was surprised, and didn’t know what to say at first in response. She then moved to insist that a woman has bodily autonomy rights, and left the conversation before I could talk with her about bodily autonomy. However, I still loved that conversation, because at first she didn’t even agree with me that the pre-born are valuable, but she gradually she came to see that the unborn are human. We left on good terms, thanking each other for being willing to talk about it.
Another memorable time was when a pro-abortion U.S. Senate candidate running for the Republican primary in Oregon was doing a three-location campaign fundraiser in one day. A group of pro-life friends from other Oregon colleges and I followed her around to each location that day and protested her. We got the word out that she was, in fact, in favor of keeping abortion legal. That day we also made it on the evening local news channel, where I got to explain why — as pro-life students — we couldn’t support her, or her politics.
What keeps you going through the tough times?
When I feel discouraged or disheartened, I remember why I do what I do. I remember all the people missing from my life because of abortion. I remember the pain and deep sadness and suffering of so many women who have had abortions, because of the lies they’ve been told. I am incredibly strengthened and joyful when I remember that the sharing of the truth saves lives that are immensely and inherently valuable.
What advice would you give to your peers?
Don’t ever be discouraged if someone walks away from a conversation disagreeing with you about abortion. Be thrilled that you got a chance to challenge his thinking and show him that pro-lifers care! You are on the right, true, and winning side!
In political campaigns, they say that voters require so many “touches” to really think about, and change their mind about, whom they might vote for. I think of it similarly when talking to people and changing their minds about abortion. The conversation you had with the person who left disagreeing with you may well end up changing his mind on the next “touch,” and you will have been a part of that. At the very least, your attitude will have shown the person a clear image of what a pro-lifer is like: caring about both the babies involved and the mothers!
What is your favorite pro-life quote?
I know this quote is probably overused, but seriously, it is the greatest: “How can there be too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers.” —Mother Theresa
Given a large sum of money and any connections you need, what would you do for the pro-life cause? The sky is the limit!
I would create a fund that simply provides real, tangible support to women on campuses facing a pregnancy they weren’t prepared for. The money would go directly to housing for young moms, since you can’t live in dorms with a child. It would also go directly to providing substantial scholarships to enable young women to finish college, since carrying a pregnancy to term inevitably requires missing some days of work if the student are, even partially, working their way through school.
Connect with Melody via Twitter at @MelodyDurrett.
Do you know a student whose pro-life work should be recognized? Nominate him or her for a Live Action Student spotlight here.