Last month, I logged on to Facebook one day and noticed that about a dozen of my friends had the same profile picture: a blue square with white text that read, “I am for our children. I am for our women. I am for life.”
These friends were from different states and schools, and they don’t know each other – indicators that I had stumbled on a viral campaign.
I loved the image, and thought it simply and powerfully expressed the idea at the heart of “The Ampersand”: we are called to protect and nurture all life, from conception to natural death and every moment in between. Life & justice. Women & children, pre-birth and post-birth. I wanted to find out where the picture came from.
A quick Google search led me to Suzanne Bilodeau and Mike Gearing.
For a few nights in a row late last year, Suzanne Bilodeau was distraught – moved to tears as she reflected on the millions of lives lost to abortion. “It was so heavy on my heart,” she told me on the phone from her home in Haddam, Conn. “I prayed a lot about what I could do. I was feeling called to do something different.”
As she mulled over possibilities for action, she mentioned to her husband that she thought there were a lot of “quiet pro-lifers who don’t necessarily want to say they’re pro-life.” What if there was a simple way that people could express their commitment to the protection of life through social media? “How many people would be comfortable saying they’re pro-life if their friends and family show it?” she wondered.
Suzanne took the idea to Mike Gearing, her sister’s boyfriend and a graphic designer. “I have this idea,” Suzanne told him, “but I have no way of putting it together.”
She came up with a slogan she liked: “I am for our children, I am for our women, I am for life.” She knew she wanted it to be blue, soothing, inviting. Mike, a former atheist preparing to enter the Catholic Church this Easter, got to work designing the image.
“My instinct said to use bright bold color, get attention!” Mike wrote to me in an e-mail. “But [Suzanne] was right – we wanted to send a loving message, and the color had to reflect that this was truly a message of love and support. Love for the pregnant mothers who felt pressure from friends, family, and culture, and love for the child that she carries.”
Along with the image, Mike and Suzanne developed a Facebook page, called “I Am for Life,” which they launched to coincide with the 40 Days for Life campaign. They planned to ask those who value life to change their Facebook profile pictures to the Children, Women, Life image, and to keep them posted for at least some of the 40 days.
“We were hoping and praying for even a small impact – one person to notice the profile image, go to the page, and feel OK with sharing this message with others because they now knew that they weren’t alone,” Mike told me.
The campaign took off, beyond their wildest imagination. About 40,000 people have committed to using the image by signing up through the “I Am for Life” Facebook page, plus thousands more who didn’t formally register.
Suzanne said she had seen the campaign reach Ireland, Australia, Belgium, and Germany, and that some people had translated the message into languages she didn’t even recognize. She has heard stories from people who said the image allowed them to talk about their belief in the sanctity of all human life with friends and family members. It has kick-started conversations.
Suzanne and Mike can’t fully explain the campaign’s success, but the simple, positive, powerful message at the heart of the movement is crucial.
“The slogan specifically addresses being for our children and women in response to the falsehood that if you are pro-life, you are anti-women,” Mike told me. “This campaign also gives love to the mothers who have had an abortion, the father who may not have ever known about his child, and the families of the mother and father.”
Both Mike and Suzanne hope the success of this first campaign will lead to even more dialogue and action on behalf of all children and families, including the support of organizations that care for expectant mothers living in material poverty. “We want to make it very clear what options are available for mothers and fathers when they feel vulnerable with no other choice than abortion because they can’t possibly take care of this life,” Suzanne said.
Mike agrees: “If we are truly pro-life, we will help children that are already here on this earth and are struggling – and through future campaigns, we fully plan on carrying out this ‘consistent life’ philosophy from unborn children to struggling mothers to the born and struggling children and beyond. We hope and pray that our efforts will help our neighbors struggling with abortion and that this group can bring to light an issue that has been continually buried by our culture.”
For more information and to get involved, visit http://facebook.com/childrenwomenlife.