A Sept. 8 pro-life conference at University of California at Berkeley took aim at uniting pro-life people from different backgrounds to build a broad base for activism in California.

The “Let There Be Life” conference, organized by Pro-Life San Francisco, was the organization’s first attempt to “unite pro-life people across the state, across generational lines, across religious persuasions,” executive director Terrisa Bukovinac told Catholic San Francisco.

The conference brought such well-established pro-life figures as David Bereit of 40 Days for Life and Catherine Glenn Foster of Americans United for Life to the stage along with activists from younger organizations such as New Wave Feminists and Rehumanize International.

Bukovinac said the goal had been to organize a conference that would be interesting for an older generation while still drawing millennials. “The pro-life movement has largely failed to attract young people,” she said. By bringing in speakers who could speak to issues millennials care about, she said, she hoped to draw more interest and involvement from a younger generation.

Monica Snyder, a co-leader of Secular Pro-Life, spoke at the conference about the scientific and philosophical reasoning behind the pro-life position. Snyder told Catholic San Francisco she hoped conference attendees brought away the understanding that being pro-life is not restricted only to Christians, but “embraces everyone and can be embraced by everyone.”

“I hope that people understand that pro-life people come from all walks of life – anyone can be against abortion. It’s not a partisan issue,” Snyder said.

Walter Hoye, president of the Issues4Life Foundation, discussed the importance of understanding the reasoning of people who do not have pro-life convictions. “If you don’t know why they are saying no, then you aren’t prepared for this,” he said. “Don’t even try: You’re not in a position to do effective work.”

While the legislative success of the pro-life movement in U.S. states has been significant, the conference emphasized the importance of changing the culture of secular and religious communities to welcome life.

An unplanned pregnancy at 19 led to Amy Ford’s ostracization at her local church, with her pastor even refusing to marry her and her boyfriend. While her pastor eventually reconciled with her family, the experience led Ford to found Embrace Grace, an organization dedicated to helping churches become more supportive of women with unplanned pregnancies.

Cessilye Smith, co-founder of Abide Women’s Health Services, talked about the historical injustices – slavery, systemic racism, control of women’s bodies – the pro-life movement can address.

Opening up the boundaries of pro-life activism to embrace racial justice can build more credibility with people who believe in abortion rights, Smith said. “By showing that we do care about social justice, police brutality, infant and mortality rates, it softens their heart.”

Full story at Catholic San Francisco.