Inside the abortion clinic, a young girl hesitantly admits she’s 13 years old, and that the “boyfriend” who got her pregnant is 31. Legally, health professionals are required to notify the police of statutory rape. Instead, the counselor tells the girl firmly, “I didn’t hear the age. I don’t want to know the age.”
Fortunately, in this case, the girl was actually Lila Rose, a now-22- year-old pro-life activist who goes undercover to film illegal or abusive counseling practices at abortion clinics. A recent graduate of the University of California Los Angeles, Rose founded the organization Live Action, a youth-led anti-abortion coalition that uses new media and investigative journalism to expose the methods some clinics use when counseling young girls seeking abortions. Rose’s work has led to state legislation, criminal investigations and sanctions at some clinics, and the revocation of state funding at others. Rose publishes The Advocate, a pro-life student magazine, has appeared on national news programs, and has received the inaugural Life Prize from the Gerard Health Foundation (2008) and the Young Leader Award from the Susan B. Anthony List (2010).
What inspired you to found Live Action?
I was raised in a wonderful pro- life family and one of eight children. We were always taught to respect all people regardless of their age, from the unborn to the elderly. When I was about 9 years old I came across a (pro- life) book in our house called Handbook on Abortion by Dr. and Mrs. J.C. Willke. I thought, How could anybody do this to a baby? Is this really happening? As I got older, I would pray, “Lord, I can’t imagine anything worse happening in the world. Use me to end abortion. Use me to build a culture of life.” I started Live Action when I was about 14. It’s just been a journey from there of developing new ways to spread the truth and to really make a difference.
What is the mission of Live Action, and what do you hope to accomplish?
The mission is twofold. We want to build a culture of life by ending the influence and operations of the biggest political abortion proponent in the United States, Planned Parenthood, through the use of new media and investigative journalism. We’re working to expose the violence of the abortion industry and lobby.
We also want to build a culture of life by educating, organizing, and leading people across the United States, especially young people, to stand up on their campuses and in their communities, to be a pro-life movement to end abortion. We use cutting-edge social media technology in order to do that, and a special leadership program.
What inspired you to begin your undercover stings at clinics?
Our team did a lot of research about the abuses and illicit activity inside the abortion industry. When I was 18, a freshman at UCLA, I teamed up with activist James O’Keefe to do an undercover project. We realized the power of visual media, and we wanted to get evidence on tape, and then use social media on the Internet (YouTube, Facebook, etc.) to get this information to the public.
Did you ever feel you were in danger when you were doing the stings? Has anybody tried to talk you out of doing them?
There are definitely times when it can be very nerve-racking to do undercover work, but I always remember that I am so protected compared to that unborn child who is in danger of an abortion, and that pregnant young woman or girl who’s going into the clinic. She could be damaged physically, emotionally, and might be in an abusive situation that’s being covered up by the abortion clinic. So it always puts it into perspective that we’re really exposing the dangers for these victims.
What have your stings accomplished in drawing attention to the things that you’ve uncovered?
We’ve done a lot of video releases and different projects, and we’ve seen some great results. We’ve seen defunding of (some) Planned Parenthood (clinics). We’ve seen a clinic put on probation. We’ve seen clinics that have had to fire or suspend employees (for illegal behavior). We’ve seen a lot of negative media coverage in the national media. Even CNN recently did a documentary that covered some of our work. Our YouTube videos have over a million views. So we’ve seen some wonderful successes, but it’s just the beginning, because there’s so much more to be done in this area and so many more people to reach.
How do you manage your time? You were in school but also running Live Action and other projects.
It’s been a whirlwind, and I’ve definitely taken some crash courses in media and personal time-management and development (laughs). But by the grace of God I work with a wonderful team, and I’m blessed with a lot of helpers and people I can go to for advice.
What advice would you give to teenagers who become pregnant and may be afraid or unsure what to do?
I would say, first of all, there are people who want to help you. There are people in your community, at pregnancy centers, or at community medical centers who want to provide you confidential, free services to help you at this difficult time. I can only imagine how scary it must be, and if people close to you aren’t supporting you or you’re scared of telling them, it can really feel overwhelming.
Going to an abortion clinic is not going to help you in the long run. It might seem like a short- term solution, but it’s not. Abortion is not something that’s going to solve the problem as you might see it. God can do something so beautiful even with what seems like an overwhelming situation.
People make mistakes or people get in situations where they don’t know what to do. But don’t rush in and make a decision that you might regret the rest of your life. Really know all the information. Get all the information about your unborn child and about abortion, about the different choices that a group like Planned Parenthood might offer you. And fight for the life of your unborn child as a mom or as a dad.
The God that we believe in and that we trust in is a God of miracles and a God of grace and love. And He wants to help his children and not to harm them. So put your trust in God and He will guide you through this. He will help you with whatever you decide to do as far as adoption or parenting or whatever it is. But God will care for you. God will be there for you every step of the way.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
As long as there’s disrespect of the human person in our culture, and a lack of understanding of the dignity of the human person of these unborn children (or any human life), my life is dedicated to being an advocate for those people, helping to spread the truth about the dignity of the human person, and building a culture of life.
I believe a huge cultural shift is happening now where people will embrace the dignity of the human person, and that will reflect in our society and in our legal system. We’ll see what forms advocacy could take in 10 or 15 years. Maybe abortion will become a thing of the past. We will continue to work toward that goal and pray for that success.
A closer look at Lila Rose:
FAVORITE SAINT: “St. Joan of Arc is my Confirmation saint. I love St. Josemaría Escrivá; I read his writings almost every day. Blessed Mother Teresa, St. Michael, St. Joseph, Our Lady (although she’s more than a saint). I love all of them.”
FAVORITE PRAYER: “The Memorare, and the simple prayer, ‘Jesus, I trust in You.’”
BEST ADVICE YOU’VE RECEIVED: “Wait for the Lord. Be strong and let your heart take courage.”
To view Live Action videos, including some of its undercover operations, and to learn more about its work, visit liveaction.org.
The following centers offer support and referrals to services in your local area:
Pregnancy Hotline: 800-848-LOVE
For more pro-life advocates and advocates of other Catholic Values, see “Meet 12 Catholic Heroes.”