Every generation can point to its pro-life heroes in the movement.
These are individuals who by God’s design engaged, motivated, and activated tens of thousands of grassroots pro-lifers to advance the cause for LIFE.
Here are two of my heroes from the early years of the pro-life movement.
As a senior in high school, class of 1975 (you do the math), I was in a persuasive speech class. Students were paired off and my partner chose the topic of capital punishment. I chose abortion.
Clueless as to where to begin, I looked for “right to life” in the phone book.
Mary Rose, the head of the Billings, Montana chapter, provided materials that would help me build a persuasive speech.
She supplied a slide projector, brochures, and a book called Handbook on Abortion. All were from Dr. Jack and Barbara Willke, names that were new to me. I also used the famous 1965 fetal images by Lennart Nilsson, displayed in a special Life Magazine insert.
Presentations were graded on how effectively we persuaded our fellow students to our point of view, so we took a poll of the class before and after our talks. Prior to my speech, polling showed the class was split 50/50 on abortion.
I showed slides depicting the beauty and wonder of fetal life, as well as images of abortion’s impact on its tiny victims. I also explained the negative impact abortion has on mothers – both physically and emotionally.
After my presentation the class was once again polled, and it was unanimous for life! Then and there I discovered that education was the foundation on which we build political and legislative victories in the battle for life.
God used that experience to draw me into the movement, where I learned more about Jack and Barbara Willke, a doctor/nurse team who traveled throughout America and around the world to impart a solid educational foundation on which the budding pro-life movement could advance the cause for life.
They were my mentors, but I never dreamed I’d spend decades working side by side with this pro-life dynamic duo at Life Issues Institute for 25-plus years.
I can’t begin to tally the number of people who, like me, became pro-life advocates because of Jack and Barbara Willke, mentioning their slides, brochures and Handbook on Abortion. Their materials circled the globe and have been translated into over 30 languages. The pair had audiences with American presidents, other world leaders and the Pope.
Jack and Barbara taught me to change with the times, essential advice as we entered the online digital world. I became the executive producer and host of a weekly half-hour TV program, Facing Life Head-On, which had a successful run for eight seasons. The program had access to over 150-million households, during which time we garnered three Emmy Awards and various other honors.
We all stand on Jack and Barbara’s shoulders.
In 2003, Jack handed me the baton of hosting our daily radio commentary, Life Issues. He began the program in 1985 under the name Pro-Life Perspectives, the same year the film Silent Scream was released.
With Jack’s encouragement, we changed with the times, transforming the program to a web-based system that enabled us to get breaking stories to radio stations throughout the nation within hours. Today Life Issues is aired on over 1,300 radio outlets, reaching over 18 million actual listeners every week. I added a half-hour special for airing every January 22, and others for noteworthy occurrences. This year we are expanding radio to a weekly half-hour program and podcast.
We stand on Jack’s shoulders.
Back in the 1970s, many people – both friends and foes of abortion – said it’s over, the Supreme Court has ruled. My response was, “We’ll never give up trying, because this is the gravest civil rights issue of our time.” The alternative was too horrific to imagine.
Jack and Barbara Willke’s legacy laid the foundation for future generations as a springboard to overturn Roe v. Wade. And we succeeded!
Now, in a post-Roe America we face challenges at every turn, persecuted by the most pro-abortion president in our nation’s history. As we face what sometimes feel like insurmountable challenges, I recall the lifelong example of this dynamic duo, and it gives me the courage and enthusiasm to carry on until all the babies are saved and their mothers and fathers are protected.
My persuasive speech, which I still have, earned an A- and opened the door to future decades of work committed to saving the babies.
Thank you Jack and Barbara.