Editor's Note: A previous headline wrote that Higgins was criticized for "promoting abortion." Higgins was criticized for her critique of pro-life activism but she was not promoting abortion. We apologize for the mistake.
Also, Intervarsity released a statement on Thursday explaining its inclusion of Black Lives Matter speakers and with a response from interim President Jim Lundgren, saying, "Scripture is clear about the sanctity of life. That is why I'm both pro-life and committed to the dignity of my Black brothers and sisters." You can read the full statement here.
Urbana 15 and Black Lives Matter activist Michelle Higgins are under fire from Students For Life of America for seemingly rejecting the pro-life group's exhibition request and for proclaiming disparaging remarks from the stage about the pro-life movement, respectively, earlier this week at the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship-sponsored student mission conference.
During her 30-minute keynote address before 16,000 Urbana 15 attendees, Higgins, the director of Christian activist coalition Faith for Justice, attempted to dispel misconceptions about Black Lives Matter and explained the core objectives of the movement.
Near the end of her talk, the activist shared statistics of American children living in foster homes. The U.S. currently has 100,000 children in foster homes, Higgins stated, comparing that figure to the country's 300,000 churches. But what she would say next would bring the activist under heavy fire from pro-lifers.
" … We can wipe out the adoption crisis tomorrow," Higgins asserted. "We could wipe it out this week. But we're too busy arguing to have abortion banned. We're too busy arguing to defund Planned Parenthood. We are too busy withholding mercy from the living so that we might display a big spectacle of how much we want mercy to be shown to the unborn. Where is your mercy? Where? What is your goal?"
Higgins claimed that advocates for the unborn take the easier route than those of born children within the foster system, describing anti-abortion protests as " ... activism that makes you comfortable ...," suggesting that pro-lifers show selective mercy.
The comment outraged pro-life groups, provoking an angry Facebook post from Students For Life of America President Kristan Hawkins who questioned InterVarsity's decision to allow Higgins to speak against pro-lifers while InterVarsity denied the exhibitor application of Hawkins' own pro-life organization — a group that is seemingly aligned with the objectives of the conference.
"So Intervaristy allowed this young woman to represent the Black Lives Matter movement and disparage the pro-life movement from the main stage," wrote Hawkins, "but then denied Students for Life of America's exhibitor application? So sad to see a leading Evangelical organization do this. I think a speaking invitation to the nation's largest pro-life youth organization is due for their next event."
But the pro-life advocate's rant wasn't over. Hawkins took to Twitter, sharing her displeasure with followers and directly called out InterVarsity in a post on Dec. 31:
Hey @INTERVARSITYusa why did you allow the #BLM movement to speak at #Urbana15 but deny @Students4LifeHQ exhibitor application? #prolifegen
Higgins' comments also incited an article by the Evangelical Programs director for the Institute on Religion and Democracy, Chelsen Vicari, who asserted that by speaking against the pro-life movement, Higgins is shooting herself in the foot.
"The problem here is that Higgins bashes a social justice movement that aides her cause," wrote Vicari. "Deepening evangelicals passion for racial reconciliation is admirable, but need not come at the condemnation of the pro-life movement, a social justice movement all its own. Higgins might have mentioned to her young Christian listeners that within the pro-life movement is a unique and beautiful Black Lives Matter movement already in motion."
Vicari did agree with Higgins on one point. "Higgins correctly noted that followers of Jesus cannot hid[e] the truths of history. Pro-lifers agree. That's one reason why we want to see an end to the racial injustice perpetuated by abortion and Planned Parenthood."