In 2009, Lia Mills gave a speech on abortion to her Grade 7 class at Gordon A. Brown Middle School, in East York. A video version was uploaded to YouTube and four years (and more than a million hits) later, she has become one of the city’s most vocal pro-life advocates. We met with Mills, 16, to get her take on an endlessly controversial issue, and discuss why it takes a rebel to put God before Bieber.
I grew up viewing female reproductive rights as a sign of progress. I guess your experience was different?
A lot of people assume I was brought up in a very pro-life home, but that’s not the case. I grew up in a Christian home, but we never really talked about abortion. I really didn’t know anything about it at all until I went to choose a topic for a speech in Grade 7.
What do you mean by Christian household? Like, church on Sunday and celebrating Christmas?
Well, we would pray at meals and do things as a family, but religion has never been something that my parents forced on us. It wasn’t like they sat us down and made us read three chapters of the Bible every night.
You mentioned the anti-abortion speech you gave. You were only 12 at the time. Did all of your classmates gravitate towards such serious topics?
No, definitely not. I don’t remember all of the speeches, but one guy did his on hockey and another guy did his on pimples. I don’t know why anyone would want to research that and give a five-minute speech on it. Gross!
How did you decide on abortion?
There was a contest attached, and I’m a competitive person by nature, so I really wanted to find a good topic. I thought about doing a Canadian hero, but no one stood out to me. Eventually, I decided to just pray about it, because I thought, “Well, God will probably have a good suggestion,” and I feel like He was encouraging me to do the topic of abortion, and I was like, “Okay, sure.”
He didn’t suggest pimples?
No. I’m sure He cares about pimples, but that wasn’t the topic for me.
Have your views evolved or changed at all?
At the beginning, I believed that abortion was wrong, and that’s still what I believe, but back then, my views were simplistic, probably based mostly on religion. I just thought abortion was wrong because the Bible says so, but now I feel like I can talk about the issue without even bringing religion into it, which is a good place to be. I want to be able to explain my position so that people will understand, whether they go to church or not.
Okay, go ahead.
I believe that human life starts at conception, and I think that science backs me up. I think the unborn child deserves the same rights as any human, but I don’t just want to say abortion is wrong and leave it there. I realize there are reasons why women seek abortions. People often ask me what my end goal in this is—am I trying to make abortion illegal?—and that’s actually not it. My goal is to make abortion unthinkable.
I don’t want to sound condescending here, but do you think it’s possible your views might change when you get a bit older? Maybe when you become sexually active, for example?
I don’t think I would ever change sides, so to speak, because I know that the child is human and that’s not going to change. I’m only 16 and I haven’t experienced a lot of things, so I’m pretty sure my views will evolve as that happens.
Do you spend much time getting up to normal teenage things?
People will always say, “Why aren’t you out doing what normal 16-year-olds do?” and I’m like, “What normal 16-year-olds do at my school is a little sketchy.”
Like getting drunk?
Yeah—alcohol, drugs, partying. I’m not saying that’s what everyone does. Not every 16-year-old has to do the same thing. This is something that I really love to do. I like to make a difference, and I especially like being able to speak with people my age.
Do you ever go to parties?
Actually, I was recently informed [by a fellow student] that I have never been to a real party because there haven’t been drugs and alcohol. I go to birthday parties and we eat cake, but I guess that doesn’t count. My bad.
Do you feel alienated by pop culture because of your morals?
I don’t think I feel isolated, but I do think that I’m different. I can be with my friends and maybe they enjoy Justin Bieber and whatever else is going on, but I don’t really appreciate pop culture all that much. It’s not my thing. My friends know that. I have a few friends who feel the same way and we just stick together. Us rebels.
Do you see the anti-abortion movement as your future, in terms of a career path?
I really don’t know. I’m in Grade 11. I have thought about politics, but I’m not sure if that’s the right thing. These are big life choices. I’ll probably go to university, but I haven’t really thought about where or what I’ll study. I guess I’ll probably pray on it.
Beyoncé or Rihanna?
Favourite item of clothing?
A vintage dress.
Cookies or chips?
History or geography?
Favourite TV show?
We don’t have cable.