2022 Essay Contest & Scholarship

Welcome to the 4th Annual DFLA Education Fund Essay Contest!

Scholarship Prizes

$2,500 to the Winner
$1,000 to the 1st Runner Up
$500 to the 2nd Runner Up

Essay Prompt: 

Abortion is one of the most divisive issues in the United States. It is widely expected that this summer the Supreme Court–in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization–will give states and localities more power to regulate abortion. Assuming that happens, how can common ground on the issue of abortion be found or created in the average state or local community in the United States?

Judging Criteria: 

- Originality
- Creativity
- Strength of argument
- Acknowledgement of alternative perspectives
- Use of proper grammar and spelling

Note: The contest will use "blind" scoring. Judges will see no personal information (e.g. name; school; gender; age; address; etc.) about the writer, and evaluate essays strictly on their content.

Contest Dates:

Sunday, May 1, 2022 to Thursday, June 30, 2022

Abbreviated Rules:

- Age 17 - 26
- Full Time Student or Forthcoming Full Time Student
- 500-800 words
- American Citizenship or DACA

Complete Rules

Tips for Essay Writers:

- Write your essay without formatting (our submission form will NOT accept "bold", "underline", "italics" and other formatting--but WILL record breaks between paragraph).
- Count your words (our submission form requires 500 to 800 words).
- Do not include your name, school or other personal information at the top of your essay submission. (We'll already have that information from other fields in our submission form, and redacting this personal information could cause essay length to drop below the minimum word count.)
- Participant discretion whether to list references. They do count against overall essay length. 
- Don't wait until the last minute. Essays accepted up through 11:59 PM EASTERN TIME, Thursday, June 30 2022.

Recommended Resources

There is no required reading for this essay, nor are any citations required in the essay. However, reviewing the recommended resources below is highly encouraged. 

Previous Winning Essays

Read previous years prompts and see how previous winners met our judging criteria with their essays. You can access previous contests here

Information about Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

Much of the discussion about abortion in the coming months will be framed by the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. To be an informed participant in that conversation, it helps to know a little bit about the case: who the players are, what the questions at stake are, and what arguments the different parties are presenting. The DFLA Education Fund has compiled a few sources for your reference

Read more: 2022 Essay Contest & Scholarship

2022 Full Essay Contest Rules

Full 2022 Essay Contest & Scholarship Rules


Minimum 500 words; Maximum 800 words


May 1, 2022 to June 30, 2022. You can submit your essay anytime between these dates, and all essays must be submitted by 11:59 PM EASTERN TIME on Thursday, June 30, 2022. Contest dates also relevant for determining age and student status eligibilities.


Age 17 to 26 at some point during the contest period (May 1, 2022 to June 30, 2022).


Permission from a Parent or Guardian if age 17 on the date you submit the essay.


All applicants must be either:
1) a Full Time Student (High School; College; University; Vocational Education/Training; Graduate Education) at any point during the contest period (May 1, 2022 to June 30, 2022).
2) a Forthcoming Full Time Student who has been accepted at a High School, College, University, or Vocational Education/Training Institution for the upcoming school year.
*NOTE: 2022 graduates ARE eligible for this contest - even if they submit their essays after graduation.


If selected for prize, proof of American Citizenship or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) receipt.




There is no advantage or disadvantage to being a member of DFLA, of gender, of citizenship/DACA, or being affiliated with a political party. These factors will be immaterial to the contest and hidden from the judges.


The DFLA Education Fund will publish prize-winning essays to our website after August 8, 2022. The DFLA Education Fund will ask permission to publish the contestants' names with winners' essays.


Employees of DFLA and the DFLA Education Fund, and their immediate family members are not eligible for this contest. The contest winner will not be eligible for prizes in subsequent contests.

Back to the Essay Contest page

Read more: 2022 Full Essay Contest Rules

2018 2nd Runner-Up

The beauty of an ostensible contradiction is that it is an invitation to discover a paradox, a supposed contradiction that when observed fully and deeply is actually the manifestation of concordant and profound truths. Thus, the historically and culturally loaded term “pro-life Democrat” appears to be a contradictory moniker, but upon analysis it is not.

To be pro-life is to see the dignity and inherent worth in every human being and to work to create a society that respects and celebrates life in every circumstance, whether it is the lives of people of color, the LGBT community, children at the border, immigrants, a child in the womb, and the multitudes of other adjectives and nouns that describe the breadth and diversity of human life. If members of the pro-life community truly believe all human life, even that in the womb, on death row, or terminally ill, is worth protecting and defending, then it follows that they would do everything in their power to create a society that respects the lives of all human beings.

The same values that compel one to be pro-life and see the dignity and worth in all human beings are the exact same ones that motivate them to share in the dream of the Democratic party for a nation built on equality and progress. To respect life, there must be policies in place that reduce poverty, provide universally accessible healthcare services, secure the opportunity of a good education for every American, preserve the environment, and protect the human rights of minority groups: all goals of the Democratic party and features of their most recent party platform. Thus, the Democratic party is founded on the ideals of using proactive policy to secure justice, progress, inclusion, and equality for all. Those who are pro-life Democrats rely on the actualization of these ideals to create societal structures that respect all human life.

Many people see practices such as abortion, stem-cell research, and euthanasia as necessary steps in promoting progress and equality. While it is noble to advocate for the realization and manifestation of these goals, pro-life Democrats believe that the unborn and the sick are still human beings who must be factored into the balancing equation between progress and equality. The pro-life organization New Wave Feminists expresses this tension in the following quote: “When our liberation costs innocent lives, it’s merely oppression redistributed.” If any practice redistributes oppression, it works against the goals of promoting equality for all humanity and defeats the very essence of progress, the core of Democratic ideals. Because they share in the Democratic vision of progress, pro-life Democrats are compelled to oppose these practices.

However, there are also those who support ending such practices but do not realize the necessity of a massive cultural and political change in order to create a society that is equipped to deal with the ramifications of fully respecting life. As members of the Democratic party, pro-life Democrats are committed to enacting this change through life-affirming policy by ensuring the economic equality of women, reducing gun violence, and combating every form of abuse and harassment. In addition, pro-life Democrats engage in changing the cultural narrative that violence can achieve justice, equality, or human flourishing.

As a result, Pro-life Democrats are compelled by their Democratic beliefs in creating a future that is free of oppression to support pro-life goals of ending the practices that tuck oppression into quieter corners by affecting the most vulnerable. This also entails supporting constructive programs that create this future without resorting to violence as a means. By accepting the invitation to reflect on the paradox expressed by the label “pro-life Democrat,” it is evident that the two terms are not mutually exclusive, and that together they offer a deeper vision of what it means to stand for equality and to respect human life.



‘‘It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.’’ - - Hubert Humphrey Jr. (D)

Former Vice President Humphrey’s words illustrate what it means to be a Democrat: standing up for the vulnerable and underrepresented, and for the values of equality, diversity, and unity. Defending those who otherwise would not have a voice in public policy is the Democratic party's role in the United States. Members of the party uplifted the voices of blue-collar and domestic workers, minority communities, the elderly, the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, and the poor, even when no one would listen. From the Women’s Suffrage and Civil Rights movement to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, Democrats were the champions of underrepresented communities. They took pride in their role. Unborn children are one of the most powerless individuals in our country, and mothers, especially single mothers, are often unprotected. Unfortunately, many Democrats have abandoned their fundamental beliefs, and Pro-Life advocates have been kicked out by the Democratic National Committee (DNC). DNC chairman, Tom Perez, defined the Democratic party stating, “every Democrat...should support a women’s right to choose” and has instituted litmus tests to exclude Pro-Life candidates and PACs ability to support them. What it means to be a Democrat has become synonymous with abortion rights, rather than symbolizing the commitment to protecting the most vulnerable members of society.

The term Pro-Life Democrat is not an oxymoron. To neglect the unborn children and mothers is a sign of a party that has deviated from its founding principles. Many Democratic leaders once advocated for Bill Clinton’s “safe, legal, and rare” stance on abortion, which at least acknowledged some Democrats’ moral uncertainties about the procedure. As the Pro-Choice movement grew more extreme and influential within the Democratic establishment, the party began to undermine its core values, many of those Democratic lawmakers lost their seats, and DNC now uses less-inclusive language when describing party platforms. There is no need for Pro-Life advocates to leave the party as they exemplify what it means to be a Democrat and are closer to the party’s initial position on abortion. Pro-life Democrats should not abandon their moral conscience, the party itself needs to change and recommit to the values of diversity and inclusion. Despite the DNC’s efforts to suppress their voices, 1 in 3 Democrats are Pro-Life, and only 13% Pro-Choice Democrats support abortion in all cases. Pro-life Democrats are being marginalized within their party for remaining loyal to their promise of protecting human life from conception to natural death.

Democrats value diversity, and finding common ground is an essential part of the party. The 2020 Democratic Presidential primaries featured candidates who identify as female, black, Latinx/Hispanic, and gay. While this is an achievement to celebrate, the active suppression of Pro-Life Democrats shows that the DNC's commitment to diversity is skin deep. The party has forgotten about the importance of diversity of thought, particularly when it comes to abortion. Recent Pew Research Center polls show that an estimated 25% of Democrats oppose same-sex marriage, yet party establishment has not instituted similar litmus tests for gay marriage opponents. They are still welcomed into the party because, except for this issue, they are unequivocally Democrats. Why should Democratic Pro-Life advocates be treated any differently? A party that celebrates racial diversity during its primaries must honor the diversity of thought within its members. The ideological divide between the two parties has widened; as a result, acceptance for differing opinions has fallen. Now more than ever, it is vital that the Democratic Party present a united front. The DNC needs to reconcile support for women’s bodily autonomy with religious beliefs and/or moral disagreement about abortion.

However, not all hope is lost. The Democratic party is remarkably resilient. As a party that recognizes that America is a very fortunate country, it pushes every American to be better. History shows that the failure to welcome Pro-Life advocates and unborn children is not the first time that the Democratic party has forgotten about the defenseless. The ugly side of Democratic history reminds us that for 150 years, Dixiecrats quelled African Americans’ rights under slavery and segregation. The Great Society's policies were a defining moment for the Democratic values of inclusivity, equality, and diversity. This moment serves as hope that one day Democrats will recognize the rights of unborn children—they deserve a place within the party. As advocates for the unborn and their rights, Pro-Life Democrats shall not stand alone.


2018 1st Runner-Up, by Casey Cho

Support for legalized abortion with minimal restriction has become so identified with the Democratic Party that it is hard for many to imagine any alternative viewpoint among Democrats. Dissenting pro-life Democrats come under attack from both other Democrats and other abortion opponents. For the former, opponents to abortion in the party are merely the vestigial remnants of an unfortunate past who ought to be swept into the dustbin of history along with the segregationist Dixiecrats. By contrast, much of the national anti-abortion movement sees pro-life Democrats as constituting a Potemkin village: useful during national elections for winning conservative-leaning votes but otherwise muzzled and impotent. However, an honest reckoning of the evidence shows no contradiction in being a pro-life Democrat and that in fact is the most coherent and consistent position.

The supposed death of the pro-life Democrat has been much exaggerated. Dozens of them hold office at the federal and state levels. Governor John Bel Edwards won a decisive victory in conservative Louisiana and subsequently pursued both pro-life and progressive policies in office, becoming one of the most popular governors. Polling suggests up to one-third of Democratic Party voters identify as pro-life, translating to several million voters. The most recent testament to the enduring strength of pro-life Democrats occurred this year when Representative Dan Lipinski in Illinois beat back a pro-choice primary challenger despite unprecedented campaigning against him.

Thus pro-life Democrats do exist and in some number. However, is there not an ideological or philosophical contradiction? In its 200 years of history, the Democratic Party has claimed, albeit imperfectly, to be the party that stands for the rights and interests of “the people”. The modern incarnation derives from the Depression when Democrats recognized social welfare programs and amelioration of economic inequality were necessary, and the Civil Rights revolution of the sixties when the party finally began to champion people of color, women, and LGBTQ individuals. Naturally, pro-choice advocates see abortion rights as part of this evolution. However, the dynamics of abortion diverge from these other issues since the right to an abortion produces a conflict with the right to life of the unborn fetus who is inevitably killed in the procedure. Ironically, the closest parallel is not to civil rights battles but rather debates over gun ownership which produce a similar tension of rights given the deadly nature of firearms.

Instead, the pro-life position is much closer to the views and values of the Democratic Party in many respects. It advances both individual rights and egalitarianism by arguing that the fetus is entitled to the basic right to life which they possess by being a human being, regardless of any other qualifier. At the same time, they affirm the ideal of solidarity for both individuals and society. While the pro-life movement generally agrees that the mother has a unique bond and duties to the child meaning that financial considerations or reasons of convenience cannot justify abortion, its more conservative adherents fail to extend this logic further. When it comes to dealing with the economically underprivileged including poor children and their parents, many fall back upon arguments extolling individualism that echo pro-choice arguments about abortion rights as self-empowerment and the need for markets to be utterly unfettered by any social consideration regardless of how inimical the results may be for human life. By contrast, pro-life Democrats recognize that reducing and eliminating abortion requires a multi-pronged strategy beyond but not exclusive of passing legislation against it and which would be driven by recognition that solidarity needs to be extended to one’s neighbors and fellow citizens. They recognize that while free markets have produced tremendous wealth and growth, their unfettered operation results in social atomization that undermines the natural bonds of society, especially the family. They realize that higher wages, paid leave, free childcare, and guaranteed health insurance for families not only eliminate incentives to an abortion but allow children to live healthy, fulfilling lives even after their birth. Similarly, they see that affirming pro-life values requires standing with refugees and immigrants fleeing violence and want at home as well as LGBT Americans who are disproportionately at risk of suicide.

Speaking frankly, this is the intersectionalist position that positively affirms both the right to life of the unborn but also the underlying socioeconomic, racial, and sexual hierarchies that contribute to abortion and otherwise cheapens human life and dignity. Not only is there no contradiction in being a pro-life Democrat, but it is the most internally consistent by resolving many of the tensions that both the standard Republican and Democratic views have. By offering a clear vision of a better America where life is respected at all stages and every human being can live lives of dignity and meaning, pro-life Democrats can build a new political coalition that will actually achieve this brighter future.


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