Meet Emily Berning, Leadership Institute (LI) grad and faculty member. I recently talked with Emily to ask about her role as a pro-life woman and as the founder of Let Them Live. She shares how she got where she is today, her struggles, and advice for conservatives unsure of their next steps.
What motivated you to get involved in conservative politics?
I first became involved with the conservative movement in college. I had grown up in a conservative and pro-life household and college was really the first place that I started exploring my own personal beliefs on politics and culture. I am someone who is strong-willed and when I really believe in something, I put all my energy and effort into it.
Many conservatives on college campuses prefer not to get involved or make noise about their beliefs for fear of being ostracized. But that’s just not who I am.
People who know me know that I am extremely passionate and vocal and will stand up for what I believe in. I believe in many conservative principles, especially the right to life. The crux of why I got involved in the first place is that I saw so many things wrong on my campus at Colorado State, in my state, and in our country specifically related to abortion. I felt motivated by my need to do something about it.
There is too much at stake to leave to someone else the role that I am supposed to fill.
As President and Co-Founder of Let Them Live, what inspired you to start your organization?
I have always been pro-life and during college people started to know me as “Pro-Life Emily.”
I lived and breathed (and still do) advocating for the pro-life stance and when I met my husband through the Leadership Institute, he noticed that in me. He said, “You should start a pro-life nonprofit.” Having no clue how to do that or what my mission would be was scary but slowly the pieces started coming together.
I came up with the name Let Them Live on a late-night car ride to Indiana from Virginia and then our true mission came about two months after Nate and I got married.
Nathan stumbled across a pro-life Facebook page one night and saw a comment from a woman who was asking for advice on how to talk her cousin out of getting an abortion. After messaging back and forth, he found out that it was a financial burden that was causing her to feel like abortion was her only choice. She lost her job, was evicted, and was living in her van outside in the December weather.
Nathan and I knew we had to help her so we sent her all the money we had, $1250, so she could get back into her apartment, and then she canceled her abortion!
It was at this point that we started to realize that we had found our mission.
We knew there were probably more women with abortions scheduled because of financial burden (73% of women in the US have abortions because of finances according to Guttmacher Institute) and we wanted to help.
We knew we didn’t have enough money to keep doing it ourselves, so we started reaching out to our friends and family for help. Three-and-a-half years later and we have helped almost 500 moms cancel their abortions and our staff has grown from just the 2 of us to over 70 staff members and over 200 volunteers!
As a former Leadership Institute (LI) Field Representative and current LI faculty, how has LI helped you with your career in pro-life activism?
I love LI. I cannot say this enough. LI was my first job out of college, where I met my husband without whom I could not have started Let Them Live (LTL). LI is where I met some of my greatest friends and where we have been given so much support.
LI has been an amazing partner for Nate and me and Let Them Live.
From supporting me and covering costs for me to speak on college campuses to spread the word about LTL to having me guest lecture and share LTL with new LI grads, LI has given us the tools we need to grow.
On top of that, most of the knowledge we used to build and grow LTL came from LI trainings.
Thanks to LI we know how to properly cultivate and steward our donors, partake in media interviews, grow our teams, and ultimately be the absolute best we can be so we can continue to create jobs for people in the pro-life movement, help women, and save lives from abortion.
What are your thoughts on the importance of speaking out about your beliefs?
There is nothing more valuable than being vocal about your beliefs.
We live in a world where people are encouraged to be part of the status quo and not rock the boat. But my advice is to rock that boat. Speak up.
There are people depending on your voice. In my case, it is the most defenseless human beings and their mothers who need me to speak on their behalf.
What are you most eager to do at Let Them Live now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned?
I am obviously eager to just continue showing up for women and giving them the support they need.
I am also really excited for our new campaign called “I Fund Life.” This is our new peer to peer fundraising project which allows our donors to continue supporting us by creating GoFundMe style campaigns for LTL and having their friends and family donate. This will help us to grow our donor pool and keep raising as much money as possible for our cause.
With Let Them Live specifically, the money we raise goes to help women pay their rent, car payments, utility bills, etc., so that they can confidently choose life.
We are 100% donor funded. Without donations, we can’t support women, and if we can’t support women, we can’t save lives from abortion. We have some direct competition from organizations that raise money for abortions, and we want to outraise them and show them that we can tangibly support women in choosing life.
I am especially eager to substantially increase our fundraising because women are turning to the abortion funding organizations to cover the cost of their travel or their abortion itself, but we want women to know that they don’t have to have those abortions because we can walk alongside them. But it takes money to make those commitments!
Do you have advice for others who want to get involved in the pro-life movement or a movement that matters to them?
My advice is to just go for it.
I think a lot of people have huge hearts for this work and this mission but they aren’t sure about the impact they will make or they are afraid of stepping out of their comfort zone.
My advice is to step out of your comfort zone. It’s a hard place to be but there is nothing more worthwhile.
You can learn more about being an effective pro-life advocate at LeadershipInstitute.org/ProLife. If you want to start your own conservative organization, read Morton’s advice in The Conservative Organizational Entrepreneur and reach out to learn more at the Leadership Institute’s Conservative Organizational Entrepreneur training.