by Kara Hansen
Special to The Leaven
TOPEKA – It wasn’t the January weather that sent a chill through Nancy Keenan. It was a vision of the future.
Keenan, president of the NARAL ProChoice America, was waiting for a train at Union Station in Washington, D.C., in 2010. When the train pulled in, she witnessed a crowd pour out of the coaches — hordes of prolife youth on their way to the 37th annual March for Life.
“I just thought, ‘My gosh, they are so young,’” Keenan said in an April 16, 2010, Newsweek magazine article. “There are so many of them, and they are so young.”
While pro-abortion ranks are filled with what Keenan called “the postmenopausal militia,” the front lines of the pro-life movement are being swelled by passionate youths.
And for that you can thank people like Margie Livingston.
Livingston, a veteran teacher at Curé of Ars School in Leawood, has been educating her students about the life issues for almost 20 years. Recently, she had the opportunity to school a Topeka television reporter on the topic, too.
Livingston was in Topeka on Jan. 21 for the annual Rally for Life, sponsored by Kansans for Life. Along with many other participants, Livingston attended Mass at the Topeka Performing Arts Center, and then walked to the Capitol as part of the rally.
When she arrived there, Livingston was approached by Topeka television news reporter Jenna Troum, from KSNT-TV. Troum asked for an interview.
“I was not really sure about it, but I said OK,” said Livingston. “I am very passionate about life issues, but when she began interviewing me, a calmness came over me that is not always there.”
Livingston said the reporter started with the observation that much of the rally crowd was very young — students on field trips, primarily.
Clearly, the reporter began with a presupposition — that pro-life youths were there simply for a day of officially sanctioned hooky.
“She said, ‘It appears to me the children here far outnumber the adults,’” said Livingston. “I responded, ‘I think there are a lot of schools that have come and I think it’s great the pro-life movement is a youth movement too.’”
That quote from Livingston was the only one that ended up airing as part KSNT’s coverage of the Rally for Life.
But the reporter actually asked her a number of other questions as well, stemming from other, equally mistaken, presuppositions. Livingston, like the experienced front-line veteran she was, fielded them with aplomb.
The reporter also asked her, for example, “Don’t you find this a step backwards in the women’s rights movement?”
“Quite the opposite,” responded Livingston. “Half the babies being aborted are females who are missing the opportunity to be born and go on to do great things with their lives.”
Being peppered with questions by an aggressive reporter might have rattled someone unused to speaking about life issues — but not Livingston. The sixth-grade teacher had been handling a pretty tough crowd on the topic for a very long time — middle-schoolers — and was quite comfortable articulating the pro-life perspective from her experience doing it in her classroom.
“In October — Respect Life Month,” Livingston explained, “I always start by having students pick one of many members or groups of people in society that are ignored, discriminated against, abused, etc., by society,” said Livingston.
“This includes minorities, the poor, homeless, handicapped (mentally and physically), and the unborn,” she continued. “They research how our society in general discriminates against this group of people, and then we research/ discuss ways that we as a society and we as young people can change these practices and laws.”
Livingston said Troum also asked her if she found the rally to be a breech of the separation of church and state.
“No,” answered Livingston, “because we can talk about the abortion issue outside religion and morality because it’s a human rights issue, much like the civil rights movement was for AfricanAmericans.
“That three- to four-day lesson [I teach] always emphasizes the human rights angle I spoke of at the Capitol with the reporter,” she said. “This is not just a moral or religious issue. It is a group of human beings, like all the others mentioned, and no one can justify abuse of those other groups —certainly not the government.”
Livingston said the reporter finally asked for Livingston’s impressions of Gov. Brownback, and then moved on to other interviewees.
For Livingston, the experience was much more than her proverbial 15 minutes (or seconds, in this case) of fame. For her, it exemplified the goal of her work as a teacher and a Catholic — to prepare the next generation to take its place at the front of the fray.
“We need to emphasize that education is a real tool in the pro-life movement,” said Livingston. “The more we can expose people — especially young people — to the information, taking it past the issues of morality and religion and exposing them to the facts at a certain age and maturity level, the better. If they are informed on this issue accurately, it is black and white. They are the future legislators, teachers, parents, doctors, counselors.
“The youth of today will change the future with regard to this issue.”
Michelle Smith, a longtime friend of Livingston, found her arguments compelling, when Livingston told her about the interview following the rally.
“The calm, confident responses Margie shared with me impacted me so much, especially as a former teacher myself, because education is the key to being victorious in the life movement,” said Smith. “Her responses helped me be better prepared to ‘share the truth in love’ to others who ask us to defend our pro-life position, especially when it comes to the abortion issue, which evokes such passion.”
Ron Kelsey, archdiocesan consultant for the pro-life office, said the ability to engage as Livingston did with Troum is a key to turning the tide in the battle over life issues.
“Being able to articulate a pro-life point of view is a very important educational role in a culture of death,” said Kelsey. “By effectively doing so, one becomes a bright light invading the darkness. We need individuals to speak about pro-life issues in charity and truth, so that the message is received well.”
To view the interview that covered the Rally for Life, visit KSNT-TV’s Web site at: www.ksnt.com (type in “Kids outnumber adults” in the search box). Additional reporting by Joe Bollig.