Throughout 2023, we are pleased to introduce to you Indiana pro-life leaders under 40 who are making a big impact in our state.  We hope you are encouraged by this new wave of leaders passionate about protecting life!

Indiana’s Young Leaders Spotlight: Antonio Marchi

Antonio Marchi was a high school student, working a part-time job at a local pizza joint when his pro-life values came into full focus. Working alongside Antonio was a pregnant mom. She and her husband already had a few children at home, and they were excited to welcome another baby into their family.

But when they learned that their unborn baby had anencephaly, their outlook dimmed.

Anencephaly is a neural tube defect in which the baby is born without parts of the brain and skull. Babies who are born with anencephaly usually live a few hours to days before dying. The diagnosis is often cited among conditions for which abortion should be legal.

Antonio’s co-worker and her husband were heartbroken by the news. But Antonio watched as the mother bravely and lovingly continued her pregnancy.

“Watching my coworker grapple with her little one’s adverse diagnosis was heartbreaking,” Antonio said. “I felt a little glimpse into her pain each time one of the restaurant’s guests asked her a friendly question about when she was due. The way she affirmed the value of her little guy’s life amidst the challenges they faced became a powerful witness to me and countless others.”

She eventually gave birth, and she and her husband had the opportunity to hold and love their baby before the child passed away.

Antonio’s witness to the love of that mother and father was a watershed moment in his life. Across the years, Antonio would hold onto their example of selfless love as one of the underpinnings for his pro-life convictions.

Today, Antonio serves as the executive director of Right to Life Michiana, where he advocates for the lives of unborn children and connects mothers in need to helpful resources.

He has been involved with Right to Life Michiana as a member of its staff and board since graduating from the University of Notre Dame about eight years ago. But it was last summer that he was asked to take on the position of executive director for the organization.

His first day in the role was June 24, 2022—the day the Supreme Court released its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Whole Women’s Health Organization, thereby overturning Roe v. Wade.

Since that day, Antonio says the organization has been re-strategizing for the future. While assisting abortion-vulnerable women has been a longtime priority for the organization, he says Right to Life of Michiana is taking that priority to another level this year. Very soon, the group is expected to launch a mobile unit for, HerMichiana, an initiative that connects women to more than 200 resources.

Antonio says the Right to Life Michiana team regularly receives calls from expectant women in difficult situations. For a long time, the hope has been to walk alongside such women more directly. The group’s future mobile unit will allow it to do just that.

“By expanding the HerMichiana project, we hope to increase the level of personal care we share with women and to empower the community with the vast network of resources available here,” he said. “As the landscape changes post-Roe, where the threats go, the HerMichiana mobile unit will follow and meet abortion-vulnerable women with loving alternatives.”

As exciting as this development is, Antonio says this is just one of many projects Right to Life Michiana has in the works. The organization has a strong focus on public education, training pro-life advocates, and keeping tabs on developments across all pro-life issues, including physician assisted suicide.

But even as Right to Life Michiana grows and re-strategizes, Antonio sees a continuity in the work the organization began a half century ago.

“I have profound respect for the history of this organization,” he said. “Over 50 years ago, eleven people gathered around a kitchen table. They saw the looming threat of abortion prior to Roe v. Wade, and they cared enough to do something about it. Now that Roe v. Wade is overturned, the challenges have shifted, but our determination has not. In many ways, I feel that we are joining our predecessors back around the table to strategize, double down, and make the hard sacrifices it takes to fight for our most precious gift.”

Notes: This is part of a series on Indiana’s up-and-coming pro-life leaders. Stay tuned for more stories about young leaders who are paving the way for a pro-life future.

For help with a fatal prenatal diagnosis, such as anencephaly, please visit perinatalhospice.org.

Indiana’s Young Leaders Spotlight: Mary Carmen Zakrajsek

When Mary Carmen heard that Roe v. Wade had finally been overturned last June, she wept. She was just outside of the Supreme Court of the United States, standing alongside Students for Life of America President Kristan Mercer Hawkins. Hawkins had been the one to announce the decision for the throngs of people waiting outside the court steps.

Mary Carmen didn’t weep because she didn’t believe Roe would be overturned. Hers were tears of joy. “I know a lot of people said that they never thought they’d live to see the day,” she said. “That kinda shocked me. Because we have to believe that things like this are possible. We have to believe that we actually can reverse this egregious decision.”

It’s that kind of determination that has been driving Mary Carmen Zakrajsek for a little over a decade. Today, she serves as Indiana and Michigan’s regional coordinator for Students for Life of America. But years ago, she was a seventh-grade student who had just learned about fetal development and what really happens during an abortion.

“I think what started my passion was really, for the first time seeing what abortion does to its victims,” she said. “Just trying to wrap my brain around it…I was really shocked and deeply troubled and horrified that this was legal. And so, I wanted to do something about it.”

Mary Carmen attended her first March for Life with a group from her church when she was in the ninth grade. In her sophomore year, she joined a club at her school called “Teens for Life.” The following year, she became the group’s co-president, and in her senior year, she became the group’s sole president and earned a place in Students for Life of America’s Thaddeus Stevens Leadership Fellowship. That same year, Mary Carmen faced blowback for her advocacy when her school administration tore down her group’s pro-life posters in the school cafeteria. Mary Carmen pushed back against the action as a violation of her group’s First Amendment rights. With the help of Liberty Counsel, she threatened legal action until the administration finally backed down and allowed her group to post their signs.

With that victory under her belt, Mary Carmen persisted with her advocacy for the unborn. During her freshman year at Marian University, she organized a trip to the March for Life, bringing with her a group of 150 students from Marian University, Indiana University, and Butler University. She eventually became president of her Students for Life group and earned an internship with Students for Life of America. The summer after she graduated from Marian, she accepted the role of Indiana Regional Coordinator with Students for Life, diving “head-first” into the recruitment and mobilization of high school, college, and law school students. “It has been the best decision I’ve ever made,” she said.

It has challenged her to be fast-moving in her efforts to activate students—especially since the overturning of Roe.

“We can’t let people think our work is done,” she said. “We have the responsibility of a lifetime. The reversal of Roe–that was not my victory or my generation’s victory. I think that was really the hard work of the generation before us. That was the victory of our parents, our grandparents. We’re so grateful for their dedication and their work and their influence in sparking our courage and our passion. And so, for our battle right now, our victory is ensuring that abortion is made completely unavailable.”

In Indiana and Michigan, Mary Carmen has already witnessed firsthand how quickly Roe changed the landscape for abortion policies in the U.S. While Indiana sprinted to pass pro-life legislation last summer, a ballot initiative swept through Michigan with the goal of enshrining abortion in the state constitution.

In July, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signed legislation to ban most abortions in the state of Indiana. In November, Michigan voters approved the pro-abortion ballot initiative, Proposition 3, after abortion activists poured $35 million in funding into the effort.

“We know that corporate abortion is able to spend money, promoting their propaganda to scare voters,” Mary Carmen said. “It’s been interesting and sad to see states like Michigan and Indiana really take opposite approaches.”

But the loss in Michigan isn’t slowing Mary Carmen down.

“The pro-life movement isn’t going to give up just after one election,” she said. “The pro-life movement isn’t going to, because a number of months passed after the Dobbs decision, and we didn’t outlaw abortion completely. You know, it takes time and prayer and sacrifice. If anything, in the case of Michigan, I think it just proves to the movement that there’s never been a more pivotal time than now.”

Coming soon in our young leaders spotlight… Antonio Marchi.