Director Cynthia Lowen On Young People's Recruitment To The Anti-Abortion Movement - Exclusive

With the overturning of the landmark case Roe v. Wade, discourse has turned to its distant cousin — protest — to express outrage. Across the country, people of all genders, races, and ages took to the streets to challenge the Supreme Court's ruling — a decision that is largely out of touch with the majority of American beliefs. Supporters of the anti-abortion movement also made their voices heard in the decision's aftermath, praising the rolling back of a case their cause has been fighting against since 1973. In a time when tension and emotions are high, it's easy to point fingers and assign blame; after all, there are few issues as contentious and divided as abortion.

While the pro-abortion movement is categorized in our social and cultural ethers by the spirited action of young people, the anti-abortion movement is less known for its youth activity — but it shouldn't be. Cynthia Lowen, a documentary filmmaker, sought answers about the pro-life movement back in 2019 and was shocked to find that college-aged students make up a huge part of the anti-abortion cause. Focusing her work into her seminal documentary, "Battleground," Lowen centered a portion of the film on organizer Kristan Hawkins and her efforts to recruit young people to the anti-abortion cause. As the film explores distribution, we sat down with Lowen for an exclusive interview to discuss young people within the movement, and she shared her unfiltered thoughts with us.

Kristan Hawkins sees young people as an opportunity, Cynthia Lowen explains

If you're browsing through a list of clubs and organizations on a college campus, chances are you'll see a listing for a Students For Life chapter, a subsect of an anti-abortion non-profit that seeks to mobilize young people against abortion. Kristan Hawkins — a focus of Cynthia Lowen's film, "Battleground" — is the president of Students For Life, dedicating her efforts to organizing young people at the college level. As documented in the film, this consists of talking to college students, organizing leaders, engaging in (sometimes heated) discussions with opposers, and more — she is, in no uncertain terms, taking advantage of unique timing and opportunity.

"[Hawkins] feels she can potentially either bring [young people] in to the anti-abortion movement from not really having ever been particularly politically engaged before, or engaging people who have come out of anti-abortion communities and families," Lowen said. "We see her also making a lot of efforts to get into spaces where pro-choice young people typically are, whether that is online or on college campuses, and trying to engage them in conversations that will shift their position."

The filmmaker was surprised to find so many young anti-abortion advocates

A key aspect of Kristan Hawkins' tactics when working to recruit more anti-abortion thinkers, as Cynthia Lowen discovered while making her film, "Battleground," is poking holes in pro-abortion advocates' logic. Planting a seed of doubt, Lowen explained, creates a window for Hawkins and other anti-abortion organizers to potentially change someone's thinking on the matter. 

But the filmmaker shared with us that she was initially shocked to find so many young people engaged in the anti-abortion movement, especially given the pro-choice movement's apparent monopoly on college-aged voters. With organizations such as Students For Life, Hawkins and other organizers are quickly creating "the next generation of the anti-abortion movement's foot soldiers," Lowen explained, much to the surprise of pro-choice advocates.

"As a filmmaker, it was something that was surprising. I wasn't expecting when I started this film to see a world of young anti-abortion people who are confronting a lot of those stereotypes or preconceived notions I had about who the anti-abortion movement is," Lowen told us, explaining that witnessing young, college-aged women actively fighting against the right to abortion was unanticipated.

Learn more about the documentary, "Battleground," at Follow the film on Facebook at @BattlegroundTheFilm, on Twitter at @battlegrndfilm, and on Instagram at @battlegroundthefilm.