July 16, 2017

Pro-life young adults gather to exchange ideas and change hearts

Story and photos by Carolee McGrath

Pro-Life Young Adults of Pioneer Valley met for their second summer discussion session at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish Hall in Northampton, Saturday, July 15.

NORTHAMPTON – There is no doubt that explaining the pro-life position is often difficult and can lead to a contentious debate. But members of Pro-Life Young Adults of Pioneer Valley hope to reach out and educate their peers, without alienating them. A small group met for a second time this summer on Saturday, July 15 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish hall on Hawley Street in Northampton.

“We want to equip young adults who enter into pro-life conversations, to make pro-life arguments and to be prepared to answer people’s questions,” said Lauren Brunault, the co-founder of Pro-Life Young Adults of Pioneer Valley.

“We see this as a time to practice these conversations, build strong arguments, to build them based on logic and reason, to make people know this is more than just a political issue or more than just a religious issue. It’s a life issue and it belongs to everybody,” she added.

Brunault, a 30-year-old supervisor at a local bank, attends St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Belchertown. Her grandparents, Harold and Paula Brunault, are among the original founders of Pro-Life of Pioneer Valley, Inc. The couple has been involved in the pro-life ministry in the Diocese of Springfield for decades.

Lauren Brunault (right) and Laura Suttenfield founded Pro-Life Young Adults of Pioneer Valley to help empower young adults to speak with confidence about what it means to be pro-life.

“I grew up adjacent to this movement. I wasn’t actively involved. It was mostly my grandparents and my uncles. To me it all seemed kind of like common sense,” she said, adding that to many young people the pro-life position is a foreign concept. She said the new discussion sessions are designed to help young adults who are in the workplace effectively communicate the reason why unborn babies and all of those who are vulnerable deserve equal protection under the law.

The group discussed different pro-choice arguments, including the claim that anti-abortion means anti-women’s rights.

“People try to say if you’re pro-life, you don’t support women. I do believe in women’s rights, but I don’t believe all choices are created equal,” Brunault continued. “We can’t put one person’s rights ahead of another person’s,” she said.

Laura Suttenfield, who will be a senior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the fall, is the other co-founder of the group. Suttenfield has attended the March for Life three times. She focused the conversation on the science and fetal development.

“The fact that life begins at fertilization is a scientific fact. Then if life begins at conception, then does personhood too?” asked Suttenfield, who is studying biochemistry.

“I’m really excited to really engage with the national conversation on pro-life, pro-choice from a really rational, logical perspective and a scientific perspective and to cut away all the extraneous bits of information,” she continued. She said the group wants to remove politics from the conversation and help people on both sides of the aisle see that all life is sacred.

“I have a lot of pro-choice friends who come at this with compassion and charity. I want to meet them in that same vein. I just think their compassion is misguided,” added Suttenfield, who attends Mass at the Newman Catholic Center on campus each Sunday.

Suttenfield recruited a friend she met at an interfaith event to attend the meeting.

“I thought this was a chance to become involved in something that I’ve long felt some guilt in having not been involved with. I viewed it as an opportunity to spend some time educating myself,” said Jay Sullivan a small business owner. He said while he has always been pro-life, he sometimes feels unable to respond to people who challenge his beliefs.

“One of the points of the group is to help people educate themselves on what effective pro-life answers are to pro-choice arguments,” he said.

According to a poll released by the Institute for Pro-Life Advancement last year, a research initiative of Students for Life, 53 percent of millennials think abortion should be illegal in all or most circumstances. The poll also found that even though most millennials lean pro-life, they don’t identify as pro-life because they don’t know what that means or they don’t want to be associated with the term for one reason or another.

Suttenfield and Brunault said their immediate goal is to help pro-life young adults speak with confidence, clarity and charity and hopefully change hearts on the issue.

“I think for me, I’m in this in between stage after college, I haven’t started my own family. So I thought what am I waiting for, in terms of getting involved? I have to time to spread the pro-life message,” said Brunault.

The group plans to meet again Saturday, Aug. 12 at 3:30 p.m. at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish Hall in Northampton.

For more information, contact Brunault or Suttenfield at [email protected]   

For a video version of this story, tune into an upcoming edition of “Real to Reel” the Diocese of Springfield’s weekly television newsmagazine that airs Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22 NEWS