by Marc and Julie Anderson
OVERLAND PARK — Lila Rose is not your typical Catholic. In fact, she is not even your average college student. Yet, this 21-year-old, majoring in history at the University of California at Los Angeles, represents just one person in an ever-increasing number of young people who are working together using a variety of media methods to promote the Gospel of Life.
A recent convert to the Catholic faith, Rose captured media attention at the national level in recent years with her undercover student-led investigations of Planned Parenthood abortion clinics. Rose has been a guest on radio and TV shows, including “The O’Reilly Factor,” “Glenn Beck” and “Hannity’s America,” as well as newspapers like The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Times. The investigations have prompted officials in several states, including Indiana, Alabama and Tennessee, to either launch criminal investigations into the clinics or to withhold taxpayer subsidies from the clinics.
Rose will be the featured speaker at the Kansans for Life annual Valentine’s Day banquet to be held at 6 p.m. on Feb. 11 in Overland Park at the Ritz Charles, located at 137th and Antioch. (For more information about the banquet, see ad on page 7.)
The banquet will also feature Jamie Thietten, a recent guest on EWTN’s show “Life on the Rock.” Thietten is the 2009 recipient of Christian music’s Momentum Award in Nashville, Tenn., for her pro-life song, “My Chance.” This song tells the story of a young woman who cannot have children with her husband because of an abortion she had years before.
Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, said that Rose and Thietten are but two of the many new young faces involved in the pro-life cause, a movement which continues to gain momentum.
“Pro-life media and polls and attendance at the annual March for Life consistently show our movement is full of youth. We are currently working with Benedictine College’s Ravens Respect Life, who are very active, and with pro-life groups at Kansas medical schools — a phenomenon of the last few years — and now, with the first-ever KU Law Students pro-life group,” said Culp.
Culp said it was her curiosity about what kind of college student undertook the kind of work Rose was doing that eventually led to the speaking engagement.
“I thought Lila was awfully brave and wondered what she was like,” said Culp. “Then I saw her interviewed on EWTN at the March for Life and found her smart and fearless, yet sweet and genuinely concerned for peers and unborn babies at the mercy of abortion clinics.”
Rose was passionately pro-life from a very young age.
When she was only nine, Rose was wandering around her house looking for a book to read when she stumbled across a book, entitled “Handbook on Abortion.” It contained photographs of an unborn 10-week- old baby that had been aborted.
“I remember being so shocked and then closing the book, only to reopen it again,” Rose said. “I remember thinking, ‘How could anyone do this to a baby?’”
Rose hid the book in her room and read it, determining then that she needed to help save babies.
Around that same time, Rose found out that both her mother and her grandmother volunteered at a local pregnancy center. Her mother had just finished reading “Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation,” written by Ronald Reagan.
According to Rose, the book served as a catalyst for her mother to get more involved in the pro-life movement. Her mother brought home a stack of fliers to help raise money for an ultrasound machine for the local pregnancy center.
“That made me very excited,” said Rose, adding that she decided to help the cause by spending a week distributing the fliers in her neighborhood, eventually raising $4,000 toward the cost of the ultrasound machine.
“Even at nine years old, I knew I could make a difference. I had to do something,” she said.
From that point on, Rose dedicated her life to promoting the Gospel of Life and ending abortion. At age 15, she founded Live Action, a student-led organization that utilizes “new” media to educate the public about abortion and its consequences. It also lobbies government to investigate violations of existing abortion laws and encourages legislators to pass laws to protect the rights of the unborn.
While a sophomore at UCLA, Rose founded The Advocate, a student pro-life magazine administered through UCLA’s local chapter of Live Action. The first issue debuted in January 2007 and featured Rose’s first undercover investigation — an expose of pro-choice counseling at UCLA’s Arthur Ashe Health Center and institutional support for pregnant students. The magazine is now distributed at 15 different college campuses throughout the nation.
For Rose, the matter of abortion is simple.
“It’s the ultimate human rights issue,” she said. “The first right listed in the Declaration of Independence is the right to life. If that right is taken away from the most vulnerable among us . . . we have nothing.
“Laws are made for the weak, not for the strong. But when a law turns its arm against the weak and strips its protection, then it does the opposite of what a law is supposed to do. It’s no law at all. The pro-abortion law at the heart of our legal system has created a horrible injustice.”
Rose, who attends Mass daily, said abortion is one of the issues that led her to join the Catholic Church. But the journey really began several years ago when she began to read Church Fathers like Augustine, as well as the writings of Mother Teresa and St. Joan of Arc as part of her home school curriculum.
She also read the works of Catholic writers G.K. Chesterton, Peter Kreeft and Michael O’Brien.
“I didn’t have any Catholic friends,” she noted, “but I identified with the teachings of the church, especially on matters of life.”
“Ultimately,” said Rose, “the church chose me.”