Matt C. Abbott
Emily Zender: a new face in the pro-life movement; 'Catholic' Sen. Dick Durbin to be honored by Planned Parenthood
By Matt C. Abbott
January 18, 2014

The following is an interview with Emily Zender, the new executive director of Illinois Right to Life Committee. (In the interest of full disclosure, I was the executive director of IRLC for a relatively brief period in 2000 and 2001. I left on good terms.)

MCA: What inspired you to become active in the right-to-life movement?

Emily Zender: The story of Anne Frank hit me hard when I was learning about Nazi Germany and the concentration camps in school. I remember asking my parents, "If you were in Germany during the time of the concentration camps, would you have helped hide the Jews in the midst of the awful genocide?" My parents answered, "Yes, I'd like to think we would. You always have to stand up for the truth, no matter the cost."

It was shortly thereafter when I was invited to participate in Indiana Right to Life's writing contest. As I researched the topic of abortion for my paper, I couldn't get the conversation about Nazi Germany out of my head. I realized that I was in the midst of a genocide. What will future generations say if those who truly understand the horrors of abortion choose not to protect the victims? I didn't ask for this burden to be placed upon my generation, but I couldn't allow the genocide to continue either. That's when I knew I was called to give my life to the pro-life movement.

MCA: What would you say are the biggest challenges currently facing the movement?

Emily Zender: The biggest challenge remains to be education. A lack of education on the horrors of abortion is what led to its legalization. Education (and prayer) is what will ultimately eliminate abortion. I truly believe that when a person fully understands the horrors of abortion, their heart can no longer support it under any circumstance.

Our current challenge with education, however, is that the pro-life message has almost become stale. We need to employ fresh, new ways to talk about life and fresh, new ways to spread our message. Life is beautiful, fun, and precious, but it is also complicated, difficult, and stressful. Raising a child is trying and complicated. But we are here. That's the pro-life message. No matter what obstacle feels insurmountable at this moment, we'll be here for you.

MCA: It seems that in recent years, the movement has attracted more young people. Do you think this (apparent) trend will continue?

Emily Zender: The youth are on fire for life! The booming youthful support we are seeing is only the beginning. It is not the movement that has attracted the youth, but the truth. My generation has never known a world without abortion. We feel cheated from the truth; cheated by such low expectations of each other. We know life has so much more to offer. The youth are just starting to take ownership of the movement by assuming strong leadership positions. It is our nation now, and we want abortion to be absent from our future.

MCA: What do you hope to accomplish in the coming months as executive director of Illinois Right to Life Committee?

Emily Zender: Illinois Right to Life is preparing for a complete re-launch of our organization to officially occur in April. We are preparing to inject the Illinois pro-life movement with a vivacious, fresh, and bold organization that uses the most advanced resources to eliminate abortion. We sat down with local and national pro-life leaders to put together a plan with one goal: to turn Illinois pro-life again in five years. When we're finished, Illinois will no longer be the abortion capital of the Midwest. I can't wait to unveil our new organization to you. Stay tuned!

There are two pro-life films you may want to check out in the coming days.

Gimme Shelter, due to be released Jan. 24, is getting good buzz around the pro-life community. The film, starring Vanessa Hudgens, Rosario Dawson, James Earl Jones and Brendan Fraser, is said to be inspired by actual events. Click here for more information.

The 40 Film, from executive producer Jason Jones and producer/director John E. Morales (both of whom are staunchly pro-life) premiered last month. Click here for more information and to view the trailer.

Sadly, pro-abortion "Catholic" Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin will be given a lifetime achievement award by Planned Parenthood on Jan. 23 in Chicago (see below). Pray for this man (and all the other pro-aborts, for that matter) to come to his senses. He would do well to heed the recent words of Pope Francis that "it is frightful even to think there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day." (Source)

© Matt C. Abbott


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. Abbott has been interviewed on HLN, MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 2019 ‘Unsolved’ podcast about the unsolved murder of Father Alfred Kunz, Alex Shuman's 'Smoke Screen: Fake Priest' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets. He’s mentioned in the 2020 Report on the Holy See's Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making Related to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick (1930 to 2017), which can be found on the Vatican's website. He can be reached at

(Note: I welcome and appreciate thoughtful feedback. Insults will be ignored. Only in very select cases will I honor a request to have a telephone conversation about a topic in my column. Email is much preferred. God bless you and please keep me in your prayers!)


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