This summer, Texas Right to Life’s Education Department, for the first time, hosted three trainings for our Dr. Joseph Graham Fellows. Seventeen students attended the “Oldie” training in Houston in May, and the group of 39 new Fellows were split into two groups for training: one in Houston in June with 20 students, another in North Texas in August with the other 19 students. This summer marks the first Fellowship training held in North Texas since the Fellowship program was established in 2008.
The second-year Fellows who attended the “Oldie” training were educated on advanced Pro-Life topics, such as euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, and other medical ethics issues. One of the week’s most popular speakers was registered nurse Jenny Hamaan, who shared her personal testimony of hearing doctors desire to harvest her organs while she suffered from total locked-in syndrome, a condition in which a patient is conscious but cannot move or communicate due to paralysis of all voluntary muscles in the body. The group also went on a field trip to the Texas Capitol to observe the legislature in action at the end of the regular session. There Texas Right to Life’s Legislative Team taught our Fellows how to lobby. Several members of the Texas Freedom Caucus greeted our Fellows at the Capitol, stating their desire that the students run for office to continue passing Life-saving legislation in Austin. Toward the end of the week, our Fellows visited the Brookwood Community to enjoy “field day” with the community’s citizens. Brookwood provides “spiritual, educational, & vocational opportunities for adults with special needs,” by allowing them to live in a community which caters jobs, activities, and housing according to the abilities of each resident. The Fellows spent the morning catering to the physical well-being of the Brookwood citizens by playing soccer and bowling with them, all the while acknowledging the innate dignity of these men and women whom our utilitarian society deems less than valuable than people without disabilities.
Both “Newbie” trainings focused on beginning of Life issues. Students learned about adoption, embryonic stem cell research, and heard a father’s post-abortive testimony. In addition, Fellows visited a pregnancy resource center and practiced tabling, a form of outreach and member recruitment in which students engage with their peers in a dialogue concerning abortion and other Life issues. New to training this year was a presentation by Dr. John King, an anti-trafficking advocate, writer, and poet. Dr. King shared the story of his own childhood sexual abuse and played the extended trailer of an upcoming documentary, Stopping Traffic, in which he and other sex-trafficking and abuse victims discuss the horrific ways they were exploited in the $150 billion a year trafficking industry. The film highlights the correlated relationship between sex trafficking and abortion. Dr. King spoke with the Fellows about how best to counsel someone who has been the victim of abuse, trafficking, and/or abortion. Alongside speakers and field trips, the Texas Right to Life Education staff taught myriad leadership skills to the Fellows, including sessions on the importance of delegation, holding group officers accountable, and planning their Pro-Life group’s calendar.
The 39 students who attended the Newbie trainings in both Houston and North Texas will attend their second-year training next summer, and another batch of Newbies will be chosen in the spring.