To: (Multiple email addresses may be specified by separating them with a comma)
It’s been local for a few years, but the 40 Days for Life campaign, aimed at saving the lives of the unborn, will go national this fall.
BY TIM DRAKEREGISTER SENIOR WRITER
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Forty days transformed Moses on
Mount Sinai. The city of Nineveh repented when God gave its citizens 40 days to
remain faithful. Christ was empowered by 40 days in the desert.
And pro-life groups across the country are asking themselves
what can happen if they unite for 40 days of prayer, fasting and outreach to
A lot could happen if the success of a College Station, Texas,
effort is any guide.
“We saw the Biblical significance of what God accomplishes
in 40 days,” said Shawn Carney, executive director of the Texas-based Coalition
The first 40 Days for Life campaign was held in 2004. It
involved prayer, fasting, a 40-day prayer vigil outside the local Planned
Parenthood business, and outreach, including a door-to-door information
campaign that reached more than 25,000 households.
Those unable to pray at the abortion business were invited
to participate in the campaign via daily e-mailed prayers throughout the span.
More than 60 local churches and more than 1,000 people
participated. Set up much like perpetual Eucharistic adoration, individuals
signed up for times to pray at Planned Parenthood around the clock — 24 hours a
day, 7 days a week. Members of the Knights of Columbus, said Carney, took many
of the late evening and early morning hours. Participants in the vigil have a
prayerful presence at the abortion business, refraining from the use of graphic
“It was the longest continuous prayer vigil in front of an
abortion business,” said Carney. “As a result, abortions dropped by 28%
Not only that, but the effort inspired other communities to
hold their own 40 Days campaigns.
Spreading the Effort
“When we finished our campaign, a group in Dallas wanted to
do one,” said Carney. To date, a total of seven have been undertaken, including
College Station, Dallas and Houston; Bremerton, Wash., Green Bay and Madison,
Wis., and Charlotte, N.C.
In Houston, parishes, schools, families and individuals from
both Catholic churches and Protestant congregations braved 99-degree heat from
Aug. 15 - Sept. 29, 2006 to cover hours for the prayer vigil.
Following Green Bay’s lead in 2006, Wisconsin Right to
Life’s Region 2 conducted its campaign in Madison between Mother’s Day and
Father’s Day of this year. Unlike the Texas campaign, the Madison vigil took
place only while the abortion business was open.
In Bremerton, the campaign took place over the course of
this past Lent. Organizer Glenn Stockton said he was inspired to conduct a
local campaign by his college-age daughter.
“Our daughter told me that she wanted to go camp out in
front of Planned Parenthood night and day until they closed,” recalled
Stockton. “I was primed. When I read about the 40 Days campaign in the
Register, it dawned on me that this was a way to accomplish her vision in a
“What Kitsap Human Life is doing this Lenten season does
more than make people aware that Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest
abortion profiteer,” said Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for
Life, of the Bremerton effort. “This vigil is a sign of what Lent means in the
first place; self-sacrificing love to save the helpless.”
The Bremerton campaign was not without opposition. Planned
Parenthood launched its own counter-protest called “Pledge a Picketer” to try
to intimidate the prayerful protestors to give up.
“Planned Parenthood came out and held up signs saying
‘Pledge a Picketer,’” explained Stockton. “The idea is that people will donate
a specific dollar amount to Planned Parenthood per hour when there are people
protesting Planned Parenthood. Later they hold up signs that say, ‘Your efforts
have earned this much for us,’ and ‘Even your picketers work for us.’”
“If you’re not prepared for it, it can be disturbing to
picketers, but you can’t let it discourage or deter you from being there,” said
Stockton. “It was quite unsuccessful.”
In preparation for the fall 40 Days campaign, Planned Parenthood
in Houston and College Station are raising funds to buy tarps that the abortion
businesses will place over the fence surrounding their property to serve as a
visual shield in front of the praying protesters.
The campaign focuses on Planned Parenthood because it is the
country’s leading abortion provider, but communities without Planned Parenthood
are invited to host prayer vigils outside any abortion business.
During its 2005-2006 fiscal year, Planned Parenthood
performed a record 264,943 abortions, profiting $55.8 million, and receiving
taxpayer funding of $305.3 million.
“Planned Parenthood is the preeminent source and biggest
provider of abortions in the U.S.,” said Stockton. “They put themselves out
there as a major not-for-profit that is in the business of killing babies, so
they’re a big target.”
‘Fruit’ of the Campaign
Stockton said that the Bremerton campaign had almost
“There was a definite save for a mother,” said Stockton. “In
addition, the abortion business curtailed their operating hours and dropped one
day off their work week.”
During the second week of the prayer vigil in Houston, one
of the city’s abortion businesses unexpectedly closed after being in operation
for more than 20 years.
According to a 40 Days for Life report, 120 women in Houston
were directed away from the abortion business during the course of the
campaign. In Dallas, 17 children were spared.
“Someone from inside Madison Planned Parenthood said that
there were more turn-arounds during that time than they had seen in a while,”
said Doreen Shirek, chapter director for Wisconsin Right to Life.
In Green Bay, more than 700 people participated. According
to Carney, only 2% of those who participated had ever done any type of pro-life
Carney said that the campaign has been successful because it
provides busy people something tangible to do in the face of abortion.
“There’s a beginning and an ending,” said Carney. “You can
do anything for 40 days.”
Taking It Nationwide
The national interest has led to a television program and a
national 40 Days for Life campaign that will begin Sept. 26. EWTN aired the
Coalition for Life’s television program “Being Human” June 25 to garner
interest in the campaign. The 30-minute documentary profiles everyday people
who work to give a voice to the unborn.
Between Sept. 26 and Nov. 4, pro-life groups across the
country will be mobilizing for 40 Days campaigns in their own communities. The
organization has had inquiries from 374 towns in 42 states.
“We already have half a dozen major American cities that are
going to participate,” said Carney. “We know of another dozen that hope to
Interested pro-life groups can learn more about the
campaign, or register for updates at 40daysforlife.com.
No matter how many cities participate, organizers know that
it will have long-ranging effects — not only for the lives of the babies and
their mothers, but also for those who participate.
“The Madison campaign has been over since June 15,” said
Shirek. “Yet we still have people who go to the abortion business to pray
during the week.”
“Through 40 Days of Life, the contrast between the two sides
of the abortion debate becomes clear,” said David Bereit, national director for
40 Days for Life. “Planned Parenthood preys on women and destroys their
children for the almighty dollar, while peaceful Christians pray for women and
protect their children all to glorify the Almighty.”
Tim Drake is based in
St. Joseph, Minnesota.