The following are adapted remarks from last week’s Bishops’ Pro-Life Banquet. The banquet featured this year’s Gospel of Life Award bestowed on a person who has demonstrated exemplary efforts within the pro-life movement.
It was 1981. She was 24 years old, and pregnant with her first child. Within her heart, she felt compelled to attend her first Nebraska Walk for Life in Lincoln.
During the Walk, she was struck by the fact that her baby was wanted and protected, but countless other babies were being aborted. She experienced a grave sense of injustice at this civil rights violation. Her response: a desire to rectify this injustice of abortion within her lifetime.
For the past 38 years, our Gospel of Life Award Honoree, Julie Schmit-Albin, has been doing just that.
After that Walk in 1981, Julie started attending Lincoln Right to Life meetings. She and her husband John later moved to Fullerton, where Julie started Nance County Right to Life and became a board member for Nebraska Right to Life. Shortly after returning to Lincoln, Julie became the executive director of Nebraska Right to Life in 1989.
As the executive director, Julie has been responsible for education and legislative and political outreach. This has included conducting major activities like the Nebraska Walk for Life, the pro-life booth at the State Fair, Pro-Life Legislative Day, and the Nebraska Right to Life Political Action Committee Voter Guide. Julie’s pro-life efforts have undoubtedly reached hundreds of thousands of Nebraskans. I’d venture to guess that nearly every Nebraska pro-life advocate, in the last 30 years, has been affected by Julie’s heroic efforts.
Julie is most known for her tenacious political advocacy. As a senior staff member for then-United States Senator Ben Nelson said in a 2007 Lincoln Journal-Star article: “Anyone who runs for public office without touching base with [Julie] does so at their peril.”
Reflecting on Julie’s pro-life legislative advocacy over the years, Lieutenant Governor Mike Foley shared: “Senators fear Julie. They know she’s as serious as a heart attack. And if they don’t vote pro-life, they’ll feel the pressure.”
Julie’s father, Loran Schmit, was a state senator from 1969 to 1993 and is acknowledged as one of the major political influencers in the state legislature’s history. Even then, the story goes that Sen. Ernie Chambers once told then-Sen. Schmit that he was much easier to negotiate with than his daughter Julie was.
As a political advocate, Julie has been fearfully respected. When she walks into the State Capitol, everybody knows that she means business, on behalf of the unborn child and her mother.
Julie has never shied away from prophetically advocating for the inviolable dignity of every human being from the moment of conception to natural death. She has always been willing to go toe-to-toe or butt heads with the most politically influential (regardless of their political affiliation), because it is what our society’s most vulnerable—the unborn—deserve.
But Julie has always been more than a fearfully respected political advocate.
Julie has been keenly aware that the culture of life doesn’t begin and end at the statehouse. For Julie, being a pro-life advocate requires influencing the culture, transforming the hearts of women and men across the state, one-by-one, prayer-by-prayer. In these efforts, Julie has been a woman of deep love, kindness, compassion, and prayer.
Julie has shown great care and concern for every grassroots pro-life advocate she has encountered over the years, sensitive to their needs and a partner in their local efforts.
Julie’s pro-life values and efforts have also always had a place in the home. Whether it has been late nights of planning for the next major event or keeping up with administrative tasks, Julie’s family has witnessed her dedication and joined in the efforts. But, most of all, Julie has consistently remained a loving, caring, and involved wife, mother, and grandmother throughout all the busy-ness and chaos, always meeting the needs of her husband and four children—saying ‘Yes’ to life in the same way her mother, Rene Jo, taught her to say ‘Yes’ to God’s greatest gift.
Most importantly, all of Julie’s pro-life efforts have begun and ended with Jesus Christ. She has been faithful to our Lord in the Eucharist and His Church, and finding deep friendships with the saints.
So, whether Julie has been putting the heat on state senators to pass laws protecting unborn life, whether she has been vetting the pro-life credentials of political candidates, whether she has been weathering the elements of many a cold January day in DC and Lincoln to peacefully protest Roe v. Wade, whether she is joyfully witnessing to the sufferings of life for the sake of the Kingdom, or whether she has been saying ‘yes’ to the gift of life in her motherhood or spoiling her grandson, Julie has been a faithful disciple of the Gospel of Life.