Young women honored with pro-life award share their stories

Laura Peters, Marjorie Dannenfelser, Jill Sanders, Mary Ellen Bork, and Genevieve Wood. (l tor) Photo courtesy of SBA List.
Laura Peters, Marjorie Dannenfelser, Jill Sanders, Mary Ellen Bork, and Genevieve Wood. (l tor) Photo courtesy of SBA List.


At its annual gala, the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List recently honored several young women for their advancement of the pro-life cause. CNA interviewed two of the young women, Jill Sanders and Laura Peters, who candidly discussed how they were drawn to work in the pro-life movement. The two also detailed the negative effects of abortion and urged young women not to be “deceived” by organizations such as Planned Parenthood.

On March 24, the Susan B. Anthony List held their third annual Campaign for Life gala in Washington D.C., honoring five young women with the Susan B. Anthony Young Leader Award.

Jill Sanders, 28, is the producer of EWTN's youth program, “Life on the Rock”. Her job description includes coordinating guests on the show to discuss matters of faith, and often the pro-life cause. She has also produced segments on the annual March for Life for the “Life on the Rock” program.

Sanders said that although she was raised in a pro-life home, “I didn’t really own my pro-life views until I was a freshman in college at a state university.”

“My 18-year-old roommate got pregnant during our first semester away at school,” she explained. “Despite years of proclaiming that I was pro-life, this was the first time I was faced with a real situation where a dear friend had to make a choice.”

“She decided to have an abortion, and I supported her,” Sanders recalled. “I put myself in her shoes and knew that I wouldn’t be able to raise a baby, when I was barely old enough to vote! How would she finish school, get a job, or ever find a man that would love her and her child?”

After she went home for Christmas break, Sanders remembers feeling “overwhelmingly guilty” for advising her friend to have abortion.

“I imagined the void in my life, had my brother’s biological parents chosen abortion,” she said. “I spent a month doing research about the effects of abortion on the woman, the abortion procedure itself, fetal development, and what the Catholic Church taught about life issues.”

After emailing her friend “almost daily” on the information she discovered, Sanders prayed fervently that she would change her mind.

“She did,” Sanders recalled. “And now her son is 10 years old and the greatest joy of her life. All of the obstacles that a scared pregnant 18-year-old thought she’d never overcome, she has, with flying colors.”

“She finished school. She got a great job. She got married to a wonderful man. And lives a full and happy life.”

On what influenced her decision to begin work in advancing the pro-life cause, Sanders explained that seeing “my friend’s difficult decision to choose life for her son catapulted me to become more actively pro-life and more actively Catholic. I started attending daily Mass and praying every day for an end to abortion. I prayed that scared pregnant women would have the same strength and courage that my friend had.”

Laura Peters, also a recipient of the SBA List Young Leader award, told CNA that up until a year ago, she had been “plagued with a sense of restlessness” before her involvement with the pro-life movement.

Although the 23-year-old says she “yearned to give my life to something greater,” Peters recalled spending “several years switching from one plan to another as I attempted to discern my vocation.”

At 21, Peters became engaged to the man of her “dreams.”

“Not wanting to let him slip away, I became determined to suppress the nagging voice in the back of my mind that kept telling me there was 'something else I was supposed to do first' before assuming the responsibilities of marriage and parenthood,” Peters recounted. “I even stopped praying for guidance out of fear that the answer was one I didn’t want to hear.”

Peters said she felt a distinct call become involved with the pro-life movement when she attended a Students for Life of America conference in January 2009. Following her time at the conference, it “gradually became apparent over the next six weeks that none of my future plans were going to be compatible with following my conscience.”

“Despite my best efforts to avoid having to make any sacrifices, in the end it all came down to a fork in the road, two very distinct paths, and a choice that was nothing short of excruciating,” Peters added.

“Considering that I had absolutely no game plan whatsoever at that point, it was beyond question the most terrifying leap of faith I’ve ever made. As it turned out in the end, however, my journey over the past year has strengthened my faith tremendously – God has showered me with blessings beyond my wildest expectations.”

Peters serves as president of the statewide pro-life organization Alabama Students for Life. In April 2009, she coordinated the first Alabama Students for Life Statewide Conference, which drew student participants from across the state and included several different pro-life organizations.

“I just accepted a job offer from Priests for Life in NYC, where I will be working with their lay outreach ministry known as The Missionaries of the Gospel of Life,” Peters said. “My dream is to specialize in inter-organizational cooperation and promote an increased level of collaboration within the movement.”

Speaking on the negative effects of abortion, Sanders and Peters shared their perspectives with CNA.

“It is a woman’s natural urge to be protective of her children,” Sanders asserted. “If a woman is pregnant and the child is wanted, then it is a baby in her womb. If a woman is pregnant and the baby is unwanted, then it’s just a blob of tissue. I think most women instinctively know how wrong this flawed line of thought is. I think most women know that abortion ends the life of their child.”

In addition to many physical problems that abortion can cause, it can also “result in severe emotional consequences,” Sanders said.

“Post abortive women have an increase in drug and alcohol use and an increase in suicidal thoughts,” Sanders noted. “But Planned Parenthood says 'this is not true.' Who are we to believe? These women who are sharing their personal experiences? Or an organization that is making many-millions of dollars every year from scared pregnant women?”

Peters echoed Sanders, saying that “I would urge young women not to be deceived by the rhetoric used by Planned Parenthood, but instead to seek the truth for themselves. They should remember that empty promises, lies & half-truths are the Enemy's favorite tools of deception.”

“Abortion is oftentimes such a hidden evil in society that my goal is simply to do anything I can to spread the truth.”

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