Julia Pritchett has a passion for sidewalk counseling outside abortion clinics. The University of Arkansas student is president of the school's Students for Life chapter.
"Understanding a woman is like writing a paper on a 500-page book you haven't read," she said on Sunday during the Students for Life of America national conference. "It isn't that you can't understand how to reach her, but trying to talk to her without taking time to get to know her will only go so far."
Pritchett was one of the presenters at the conference, which drew about 2,000 students to Bethesda, Md., on the day before Monday's March for Life in Washington, D.C.
Pritchett also is passionate about getting college students involved in the pro-life movement. Sidewalk counseling "is certainly not easy work," she said, "but it is so worth it to see a woman turn and walk away from an abortion clinic because you took time to care about her."
Lila Rose, who founded pro-life advocacy group Live Action at age 15, also spoke during the conference. After her evening session, a line of young girls formed at her table to ask about her undercover investigative work against Planned Parenthood.
"I was scared, but I knew it was right," she told one of the girls. "Nothing else really mattered but that."
Rose told World on Campus she thought students who wanted to get involved advocating for the pro-life cause should start with sharing the truth with their friends and being vocal about their beliefs.
"Use social media to raise awareness about abortion, and get involved with a group that is actively fighting against groups like Planned Parenthood," she said. "Because if you don't fight, who will?"
The conference included seminars on the myth of overpopulation, the effects of abortion of women's health and sidewalk counseling techniques.
Young people's involvement in the pro-life movement will be crucial in determining how America continues to grow, said Patrick Fagan, director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute at the Family Research Council.
"By protecting life, you protect the family," he said. "And by protecting the family, you are protecting love. A fight for love is a fight for life."
Gov. Mike Huckabee, who also addressed the students, said younger generations must be taught to respect human life.
"Young people nowadays are more pro-life than their mothers and grandmothers. They will change the country for the better," he said as he introduced the short documentary, "The Gift of Life." "Nothing is more offensive to my Christian faith and my American spirit than that some people are valued more than others."
Groups of students gathered in the hallways during the day to discuss upcoming sessions. One group from Ohio sat making signs to carry the next day during the March for Life.
"We want to do what we can. If it's starting a club at school or carrying signs through the streets, we want to do it," said high school senior Martin Jacobs.
Stephanie Gray, co-founder and executive director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform in Calgary told the students that every one of them had been touched by abortion, whether they realized it or not.
"We are missing cousins, and siblings, and friends, and co-workers," she said. "There are too many people who are not with us because of a murder we euphemistically call 'abortion.'"
Gray started working for the pro-life cause 13 years ago, after she attended a similar student rally when she was 18.
"I so badly want to see young people getting excited about getting involved and doing good work," Gray said. "As long as there are people who are willing to speak out against abortion, I will continue to be inspired."
This article originally appeared on worldoncampus.com