The first amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1791, 15 years after the founding of the United States.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech,” it reads.

This amendment gives each citizen the power and ability to voice his or her opinion. Now, over 200 years since the amendment was ratified, there is a group of individuals who cannot exercise their freedom of speech. This group consists of just over 55 million people. They are the unborn. Since 1973, the unborn have been legally silenced and instead must rely on others to lend their voices to them.

That is what I try to accomplish as a member of the pro-life movement. It is not an easy task in this day and age — especially as a female college student. Fellow students and even professors raise their eyebrows at me when they learn I am pro-life and also a woman — something they consider to be a contradiction. I have collected my fair share of angry, threatening emails and Facebook posts that included lines such as: “You can’t be a real woman if you don’t support abortion. Go away you Bible-thumper, back to where they don’t respect a woman’s right to privacy.” It is incredibly disheartening to have to force my way into conversations — to contend, using factual evidence, that an embryo is a separate entity from its mother, given that it has different DNA, 23 chromosomes from the mother and 23 from the father.

By the end of my junior year of high school, I knew that, logically, I was pro-life. I carried a plethora of facts and statistics in my repertoire. I soon learned that while hard evidence was crucial to winning any debate, it is paramount that the speaker connect with his or her audience on an emotional level, too. The pro-choice camp has used this strategy time and time again. In lieu of scientific evidence to support its agenda, it constantly pontificates about a woman’s right to privacy and the importance of being a progressive woman. Somehow that meaningless rhetoric convinced even the Supreme Court.

During the summer before my senior year, I discovered my emotional conviction to the cause. I was working as an office assistant at a diagnostic center for high-risk pregnancies. I will never forget the afternoon when I saw my first ultrasound. Staring at the black-and-white image on the screen, I saw the baby’s entire spinal column and all of its individual interlocking vertebrae. I watched as the baby flexed its tiny fingers and toes, squirming around, anxiously awaiting the opportunity to start crawling in the real world. After seeing that child on the screen, all doubts about my beliefs, all inhibitions or fears provoked by words from the pro-choice camp disappeared. The will to fight had never burned stronger within me than at that moment.

These babies truly cannot help themselves. Without our voices speaking on their behalf, more will join the already gargantuan crowd of 55 million. According to the American Life League, one baby is aborted every 26 seconds. That means 14 lives have been lost in the time that you have spent reading this. Fourteen defenseless children who will be swallowed up in time and forgotten before they were even given the opportunity to be remembered. This is not a political issue, in which only one party is designated to be pro-life. This is not a religious issue, as many different faiths and those without any faith at all have the ability to unite in this common cause. And this is not a gender issue, for both men and women ought to be equally evolved. Abortion is  fundamentally a human rights issue, where a grave violation is occurring on a global scale.

To quote another document crucial to our country, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Abortion denies the unborn all three of these basic rights as Americans and as humans. But it is not too late. We must exercise our first amendment right for those who do not have the opportunity to do so themselves.

Laurel Zigerelli is a junior in the School of Foreign Service.

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