Pencils will illustrate annual U.S. abortion rate

Most people don’t realize how many unborn babies are aborted each year in the United States. To illustrate the approximately 1.3 million abortions annually, St. Ann director of religious education and youth ministry David Wilson and CYO members began a campaign to collect one million pencils.

“We hope this effort will further enhance the pro-life movement and raise awareness about how tragic (and immense) the loss of life is,” Wilson said, “to give a visual representation, in a tasteful way, of what (abortion) looks like; to get people to contemplate the loss of life every year.”

It was Wilson’s initial idea to collect the pencils to give CYO members a concrete activity about abortions.

“A lot of times, they feel hopeless and ask, ‘What do I do?’ Some don’t want to necessarily raise the conversation with their peers about abortion, but this is a way they can spread the word about the issue,” Wilson said.

This year’s new CYO members re-energized the three-year pencil-collecting effort in April, said active members Michael Wilson, a Brother Martin High School senior, and Emily Swiber, an Archbishop Chapelle senior.

“This was our first specific pro-life thing we’ve done besides March for Life,” Michael said.

Logo created for drive

With a theme of “Write to Life” for this year’s pencil-collecting campaign, Emily was inspired to create a cartoon character that the CYO has since used on fliers in the church vestibule and elsewhere advertising the pencil collection.

“I thought that since we’re doing pencils, why not put a face on a pencil for right to life,” she said.

Approximately 90,000 pencils have been collected so far, and Emily said members spread word about the effort by email, notices, conversation and bulletin posts.

The CYO will take any size pencil, in any condition, used or unused. Members hope other CYOs, parishes and even schools will join the effort and start collecting pencils for them.

“The different sizes and types of pencils shows the variety of children,” Michael said. “It’s a human life and deserves dignity.”

Many projects

The St. Ann CYO trek to The March for Life in Washington, D.C., is one of many projects during the year. Members also attend the annual local Relay for Life cancer fundraiser and World Youth Day, and they assisted with a recent parish volunteer dinner, worked a drive-in-movie night and the concession stand at cabbage ball games.

While the CYO hasn’t set an end date to collect a million pencils, members have drafted a form letter and plan to contact pencil manufacturers as well as schools and other church parishes and dioceses that might have excess pencils to help them achieve their goal a little faster.

“It’s been more than 40 years of legalized abortion with more than 50 million babies lost,” Wilson said. “If it takes us another year or two, we will do it. It is all about keeping the issue alive and furthering awareness of the evil of abortion.”

Once the goal is reached, the CYO plans to create a display of the million pencils to represent the lives lost annually to abortion along with a display of fetal development stages and the historical development of the abortion issue, Wilson said.

Since the Roe vs. Wade 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in the U.S., the Guttmacher Institute estimates that there have been 59,115,995 abortions. For details, visit the National Right to Life Educational Committee’s website:

Wilson wants the display to become a traveling exhibit that any school or parish can use.

In addition to the collection boxes inside church, CYO members will pick up pencils if someone can’t get them to the church. Call 455-7071, ext. 225, or email

Christine Bordelon can be reached at

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