Every Lent the annual 40 Days for Life campaign kicks off across the nation. One of the strongest campaigns can be found in my own city of Charlotte, North Carolina. The city was recently featured in the Charlotte Observer and described as “the national epicenter for abortion protests” and reportedly had “19,000 protesters last year at its busiest clinic.”

The particular abortion provider featured in the Charlotte Observer report is the busiest in the state of North Carolina, performing over 10,000 abortions a year. Countering that are Charlotte’s large, extremely active, and very organized pro-life groups, C-Plan (a collaboration of Catholic parishes) and Cities4Life (a Protestant based pro-life outreach). We are also home to well-known pro-life advocates Brice Griffin and Dr. Matthew Harrison, developer of Abortion Pill Reversal and recognized as one of the first doctors to reverse a chemical abortion. Together they also run the Stanton Healthcare Center for Women in Charlotte.

Rain, extreme southern heat, and even the rare snowfall doesn’t deter the city’s pro-life supporters from praying outside this clinic every day. Some of the most dedicated people you’ll ever meet come here regularly to pray for an end to abortion and make themselves available to minister and counsel women in need. Even under extreme harassment from hecklers they remain steadfast, participating in marches and rallies, and spending hours standing outside abortion clinics praying for those inside.

Their presence is an absolute necessity. Here’s why.

When I found myself pregnant fresh out of college and left with no support from my child’s father I believed I had no other option but abortion. I am embarrassed to admit it, but at the time I was more fearful of being accosted by angry “anti-choicers” than I was of having an abortion. That’s how far I bought into the lies and propaganda from my youth. In my late teens and early twenties, I was told, and believed as gospel, that pro-life supporters were anti-woman, oppressive, misogynistic, and that they hated women like me.

I expected so strongly to be greeted by an angry screaming mob that I drove right past the abortion provider at first. It looked like any other office building on a busy street. The parking lot was completely empty and utterly quiet and there wasn’t a single protester in sight.

When I turned around and pulled into the parking lot it suddenly hit me: I actually wanted to see those “anti-choicers” and have them tell me not to do what I was about to do. I had been abandoned by my boyfriend, estranged from my family, and shunned by my friends. I had no one. I walked through that parking lot and up to those doors exactly how I felt, alone. The absence of pro-life protesters at that clinic solidified in mind the belief that absolutely no one cared about me or my child.

And that’s why I write this. At clinics all around the world, you are needed. When you march for life, volunteer your time outside of clinics, and make your pro-life message visible to the public the message is clear — you care. For the love of women, children, and their families, you care. Your simple presence and willingness to be available speaks loudest to the ones that need to hear it the most. I want to thank all those who pray and tirelessly witness for the cause of the unborn and their mothers. I extended my gratitude to those sidewalk counselors, Rosary warriors, women willing to share their own abortion stories, and priests who offer spiritual comfort and forgiveness. Whether you regularly pray at abortion facilities or it’s your first time, thank you. And thank you also to all the people behind the scenes, praying and supporting them and witnessing in your own way.

Thank you for caring.