- - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

In 2008 and 2012, the Democrats trampled over Republicans when it came to mobilizing and recruiting the younger generation. In 2008, Barack Obama beat John McCain among 18- to 34-year-olds by 34 points; in 2012, Mitt Romney lost by 23 points to President Obama in the same age group. It was a trouncing by any standard. Where these millennials place their allegiance during the next generation will be important for the direction of the country, but one issue in particular may sway their votes: abortion.

While millennials support for homosexual marriage and other liberal issues has skyrocketed, support for abortion rights hasn’t budged. Conservatives are far behind liberals in connecting with millennials, but they have to start somewhere. There is so much passion when it comes to opposing abortion, passion that ultimately may not be there for other issues that conservatives and millennials disagree on.

As the New York Times pointed out last summer, the new voters who will eligible to vote for the first time in the 2016 presidential elections are coming of age in a time of discord, with an unpopular president who can’t seem to get it together and fix problems. This generation may not turn out to be lifelong Democrats like previous generations who came of age under Democratic presidents. Conservatives have a fighting chance, but they need to make up ground quickly.

Planned Parenthood released their annual report last month touting many accomplishments, one of which was the number of its groups on college campuses. Planned Parenthood has been in existence since 1916 and is thrilled to have 200 groups on campuses throughout the country.

Students for Life of America, the nation’s largest pro-life youth organization, has been in existence since 2006 and has 838 active groups on high school and college campuses. Pro-life students are flocking in droves to start a pro-life club or join an existing one.

When Nancy Keenan, the former head of NARAL Pro-Choice America, stepped down from her position in 2012, she specifically cited the “intensity gap” among millennials who are pro-choice versus those who are pro-life. At the March for Life a few years ago, Ms. Keenan commented on what she saw at the march, saying, “There are so many of them, and they are so young.” According to NARAL’s own research in 2010, the “group’s poll of 700 young Americans showed a stark ‘intensity gap’ on abortion. Most anti-abortion voters under 30 (51 percent) considered it a ‘very important’ voting issue. Among abortion-rights millennials, that number stood at 26 percent.”

The intensity is there among young pro-lifers, and conservatives need to tap into that energy.

Every year we invite pro-life leaders from the House and Senate, along with presidential hopefuls, to come and speak to the nation’s largest pro-life conference, filled with nearly 2,000 young people, yet they never have time to show up. However, it’s those same candidates who reach out endlessly to young people for their help during campaign season.

If they want to win the youth, they need to start taking them seriously. While it’s true that we don’t have the PAC money or the name recognition, we have the grass roots, those who will give up their most precious asset — time — to in order to help pro-life leaders get elected. Now it’s time for national leaders and legislators, in turn, to give a little bit of their time to these young people, who will bring that same passion and intensity to the voting booth for decades to come.

Forty-two years is a long time to be fighting to end abortion. But this will be the generation that makes it happen; this will be the generation that overturns Roe v. Wade. The question remains: How will we provide the leadership that will capture their passion?

Kristan Hawkins is the president of Students for Life of America.

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