“Because of you, I have a beautiful child now.”
That was the statement, made by a former high school student, that prompted Illinois Right to Life’s forthcoming video educational project, the “Heart2Heart Educational Program,” which is set to be released by the end of August.
The young man and his girlfriend had found themselves facing an unexpected pregnancy during college, but the time he’d spent learning about fetal development, pregnancy and abortion as a high school student gave him the courage to stand up for the life of his child—even against the pressure of he and his girlfriend’s families.
“He said his whole family and her whole family were pushing them to have an abortion; but he couldn’t get the beautiful pictures of the unborn child out of his head that the teacher showed him back in high school,” Emily Troscinski, Illinois Right to Life’s executive director, said.
With young men and women like that in mind, Troscinski saw the need to get information and education about fetal development in front of as many teenagers as possible. The input and lasting impressions from the students across Illinois has played an integral role in the program’s development.
Three Points of Focus
With its emphasis on the facts and science of fetal development, Heart2Heart is designed to reach and engage pro-choice students, connecting with those who may be indifferent on life issues or who have acclimated to a prevailing cultural climate that devalues life.
Made up of a 10-part series of 15-minute videos, the program can supplement sexual integrity and abstinence curricula, but its unique value is that it dovetails with history, health, ethics, science, social justice and religious studies.
“The program addresses pro-life issues important to the students using language they recognize; then, we combine it with facts, science and storytelling,” Troscinski said. “By incorporating this process, it not only gains students’ interest, but it helps them retain what they’ve learned.”
As opposed to an approach that introduces pro-life ethics and arguments as a subset of sexual education, Heart2Heart will give students the chance to think through the issue on a deeper, more integrated level, Troscinski said.
“We are finding that students are able to think through the realities and consequences of abortion, which naturally brings them to their own conclusions about sex or abstinence,” she said. “Teachers have access to the videos ahead of time, so it gives them the control and comfort in knowing what content will be taught in their classrooms.”
After seeing positive results with the Heart2Heart program while it was piloted in selected Illinois schools—with 94 percent of students saying they felt more in favor of life after participating—the series is set to launch for the 2017-18 school year.
Cutting Through the Labels
Troscinski, who has led Illinois Right to Life’s executive director since 2013 after working for the pro-life Thomas More Society, said her conversations with self-identified pro-choice men and women over the years helped her and her team zero in on some key missing pieces to the ongoing debate over abortion.
One post-abortive woman, for example, had called Troscinski at her office looking for emotional support following her abortion.
After spending hours on the phone listening and offering help, the woman ended the call with a statement that let Troscinski know she was on the right track.
“Because I’m so actively pro-choice, it was very hard for me to call a pro-life organization for help,” the woman had told her. “But Planned Parenthood had no compassion for my suffering.
“I have never met a pro-life person who was so kind and cared so much about me.”