Forest Grove native Ruth Hailey has long enjoyed public speaking. But it was the student oratory contest held by Oregon Right to Life Education Foundation (ORTLEF) in 2019 that truly gave her the opportunity to refine and clearly communicate her perspective on contentious issues like abortion.
“Starting in high school, I developed a passion for human rights, and I believe that abortion is the greatest human rights violation of our time,” says Hailey, now 22. “I entered the oratory competition because I wanted to be a voice for those who have none — human beings whose lives have inherent value and yet are being destroyed.”
Hailey entered the ORTLEF student contest as a high school senior, learning much about pro-life apologetics in the writing process. Her speech focused on the pro-life foundation of feminism. She went on to best all other competitors from not only the state of Oregon but the entire nation, becoming the National Right to Life oratory champion at their conference in Charleston, South Carolina in the summer of 2019.
“If you are a young person interested in pro-life issues and wondering how to get involved, the student contests are a great way to learn to express your beliefs and practice skills that are not only important in advocacy work but also in everyday conversations with those who disagree,” she says. “Respectful and articulate communication, compassionate but full of quiet conviction, is the way to change hearts and minds.”
Hailey is still involved in the pro-life movement, serving as a liaison between Oles for Life, her pro-life club at St. Olaf College, and the local pregnancy resource center in Northfield, Minnesota. She plans to attend graduate school before landing in literary publishing and recently became engaged.
“The oratory contest, on both the state and the national level, was a fantastic experience,” Hailey says. “True feminism is pro-life — because the right to life is the foundation upon which all other rights are possible.”
To learn more about ORTLEF’s student contests, go to ortl.org/contests