COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CNS) — Reagan Nielsen isn’t afraid of being screamed at, threatened or despised for her beliefs.
The college junior, who grew up in Monument and is receiving national attention for her pro-life work, said she is used to it.
“It helps when you know that you are on the right side of things and have God on your side and you know you are doing the right thing,” she said. “I’m standing there with my fellow people who are pro-life and I know that I am a soldier in this fight for life. I get an adrenaline rush from it.”
Reagan’s father was in the military, and the family moved a lot when she was a child. At one time, they lived in Monument and, while attending Mass at St. Peter Church, she first heard the word referred to as the “A-word.” Her mom explained the word “abortion” to her later that day.
“I didn’t totally understand it, but it was still traumatizing to hear about,” she told The Colorado Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Colorado Springs Diocese.
When she was older, she became more traumatized when she saw pictures of post-abortive babies. From then on, she made it her mission to work to end abortion. In high school in South Dakota, she became actively involved in pro-life activities and started to receive training on how to be active in the movement. After high school, her parents, Pete and Carla Nielsen, returned to Monument and now attend Our Lady of the Pines in Black Forest. Nielsen started school at the University of Missouri — nicknamed “Mizzou” — majoring in journalism.
When Nielsen went to the school, she was disappointed that there wasn’t an active pro-life student organization. She immediately set out to start one herself. She was able to quickly set one up with the help of Students for Life, a national organization which supports pro-life student groups.
In just a few months, the Mizzou group was formed and membership swelled to more than 100 students. They decided their first event should garner attention, and they invited the Genocide Awareness Project to the campus. The group displays huge billboards with images of aborted babies.
They got the recognition they wanted, but the event angered many people on campus — a reaction she expected. She said she had professors walk up to her and call her a disgrace to women. The student newspaper published a piece that “bashed us,” she said.
Next on their agenda, the group invited Catelynn Lowell and Tyler Baltierra from MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” to talk to the campus. The couple became pregnant and put their baby up for adoption and now often speak to anti-abortion groups. More than 750 people showed up to hear the couple talk, Nielsen said. In mid-March, they plan on putting up clothes lines in the middle of campus displaying 370 baby onesies to represent the estimated 3,700 babies aborted a day in the United States.
“Hopefully it will be a visual thing for people to see,” she said. “It’s not so graphic and it gets the point across.”
All of that work was recognized by the National Students for Life organization at its annual conference in January. There, the Mizzou chapter was named “Best New Chapter.”
Brendan O’Morchoe, director of field operations for the organization, said the chapter won the annual award because of its immediate influence on the campus.
“They really kicked it off big,” he said. “They made a big impact right away on their campus. They are doing a lot of campus activism.”
Along with the chapter, Nielsen, too, has made herself known to national pro-life leaders. She was recently chosen as one of a small handful of students to take part in its Students for Life of America Wilberforce Leadership Fellowship. The program, O’Morchoe said, selects the top pro-life student-leaders in the U.S. and mentors them to eventually become leaders in the national movement.
“Reagan is a great leader,” O’Morchoe said. “She has been really effective on her campus and has been a great example for other leaders across the county.”
Nielsen said the recognition is nice, but it is not why she works as hard as she does.
“People just don’t want to talk about this. They just want to hide under the covers,” she said. “It’s happening. It’s part of our generation and I won’t be a bystander and let it happen.”
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St. Louis-Sanchez writes for The Colorado Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Colorado Springs.