Brooke Paz, a third-year public relations major, spent many afternoons alone when she first started the Cal State Fullerton Students for Life chapter during her first semester on campus. She was often the only attendee at meetings and only occasionally accompanied by another club member.
“I’d text my treasurer ‘Are you coming today?’ and sometimes he would say ‘Oh I can’t come today.’ Half the time even he didn’t show up,” Paz said.
After attending a church seminar the summer before she attended CSUF, she chose to go to a breakout session which discussed abortion in terms of biology and political views. When she found the SFL table, she was encouraged to start a club at CSUF.
Despite the difficulty of finding members for the club, Paz continued on with it even when she couldn’t find students interested, thanks to the support of her family.
Paz said she considers herself to be a conservative and “pro-life” activist. In addition to starting the CSUF chapter of SFL, Paz has spoken outside of Planned Parenthood locations as a part of a “Sock it to Planned Parenthood” rally in Whittier. She believes in federally defunding Planned Parenthood.
She is considered a minority in her generation. According to the Pew Research Center, support for abortion is strongest among the 18 to 29 age group, with 65 percent believing abortion should be legal in most cases.
Attitude toward abortion has changed, and the gap between anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights has narrowed, according to a Gallup poll.
The CSUF chapter of SFL has been active on campus since spring 2015. Since the club’s founding, it has thrown a baby shower for a pregnant student and grown its membership from two members to over 25.
Recently, the group successfully petitioned Associated Students, Inc. to include diaper-changing stations in the Titan Student Union. They gathered more than 300 signatures from students, staff and visitors in support of a resolution to include changing stations in at least one women’s and men’s bathroom on the floors of each building.
The club has worked hard to make itself a positive one on campus, Paz said, and has set itself apart from the typical image of a “pro-lifer.” To accomplish this, the club has focused its efforts on campus toward supporting student-parents and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
“I think the pro-life movement is understanding that they need to make it more clear they support women, babies, families and dads,” Paz said.
When the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, an anti-abortion group, expressed interest in coming to CSUF with signs that displayed graphic images of abortions, they contacted Paz and she declined to host the organization.
“I was like ‘Hey sorry, I don’t like graphic imagery,’” Paz said. “Good for you if that works for you and your organization, but I don’t want it on my campus. It’s just not in alignment with what we do. We focus on supporting pregnant and parenting students.”
Because Paz is aware of the potential psychological effects on a woman after receiving an abortion, she said she believes the best way to reach them is to show compassion and understanding even if she wishes the woman would have made a different choice.
“I was afraid that a woman who had an abortion before would walk by, who’s already feeling guilty, would just feel more guilty by seeing that … That’s not why I’m here … I’m here to help,” Paz said.
She has recently began working at a crisis pregnancy helpline center, where they connect women with resources for medical and non-medical services. She believes in showing compassion and educating the people she talks to, even when their views are different.
“Believe it or not, I’m here for the woman post-abortive who doesn’t know her options and doesn’t know what her rights were in that situation and is feeling ashamed. I don’t want her to feel that way,” Paz said.
In the future, Paz hopes to improve the sense of community within her club. She wants to continue building her skills as a leader and continue to make the club better.
Even though Paz wants to improve, Pacific Southwest Regional coordinator for SFL Camille Rodriguez admires Paz’s current qualities.
“She will sit with her club, they’ll make a plan and then they’ll execute it. That follow through is a testament of her leadership,” Rodriguez said.
Paz said she has a closet in her home filled with baby supplies like car seats, clothes and bottles. For the upcoming semester she hopes to find a pregnant student in need, so she can give them resources and provide them with the supplies she has.
“I just need to find them, and I would love to just dump that all on one girl next semester,” Paz said.
Her motto is “love them both,” even after the baby is born. She said she wants the anti-abortion movement to also be “pro-woman” and provide the mother and child with the best shot at life.
She plans to continue educating the campus with upcoming events including their Everyone Deserves a Birthday event where club members pass out free cupcakes, and plans on bringing a mobile Obria Medical Clinic unit that will provide free screenings for STDs and pregnancy tests.
“I think going forward, education is vital … And in this era of scientific advancement … Continuing educating myself and my members and the people we talk to is really important,” Paz said. “Conversations, I think that’s most effective.”