KALISPELL, Mont. — The Planned Parenthood abortion business in Kalispell, Mont., is preparing to shut its doors for good on Nov. 20.
David Bereit is confident that the Kalispell 40 Days for Life campaign played an integral role in its closing.
“Faithful pro-lifers maintained a prayerful vigil at that site for the spring campaign, and their prayers have been heard,” said Bereit, national director of 40 Days for Life.
Bereit represents more than 215,000 individuals who have joined the 40 Days for Life movement since the initial campaign kicked off in Bryan, Texas, in 2004. Now the largest coordinated pro-life outreach in history, 40 Days for Life is a community-based effort focused on 40 days of prayer and fasting for an end to abortion, round-the-clock peaceful vigils outside abortion facilities, and grassroots educational outreach. The most recent campaign, which took place from Sept. 23-Nov. 1, was the largest to date, including 212 cities in 45 American states, five Canadian provinces and Denmark. At least 442 children were saved from abortion during the 40-day event.
After experiencing a successful spring campaign, the Abilene, Texas, 40 Days for Life team was eager to tackle the event again this fall. However, discouragement set in when volunteers were sparse and the vigil schedule was vacant. “At first it didn’t make sense; we were working as hard as the previous campaign, but nothing was clicking,” said Paula Matchen, director of the Abilene campaign. “We soon realized that we were trying to take control instead of letting God lead. After giving everything to the Lord, it all came together magnificently.”
The Abilene campaign relied upon the involvement of the area Catholic churches to provide prayer coverage in front of the Planned Parenthood facility. “While different churches were represented in the campaign, most of our volunteers were Catholic,” said Matchen. “The Church’s unwavering stance on the evil of abortion and the guidance offered by Our Lady are invaluable to this movement.”
“The U.S. Catholic bishops teach that prayer is central to building a ‘great campaign in support of life,’” said Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for policy and communications at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. “Those committed to a peaceful pro-life witness and prayer give the world a precious gift.”
For Karen Trierweiler, director of the Kalispell 40 Days for Life campaign, the vigil site became sacred ground as volunteers prayed and sacrificed throughout the 40 days. “We have been blessed with many individuals who have made extraordinary personal sacrifices,” said Trierweiler. “One young man covered the midnight to 2 a.m. shift nearly every day, often staying until 4 a.m.”
The Kalispell campaign, which consisted of nearly 700 volunteers from 11 churches, enjoyed numerous successes, including the closing of a local abortion facility, as well as a surprise visit to the abortion site by Father Benedict Groeschel of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. “This campaign is God-driven. We are merely his witnesses to the truth as we pray to convert hearts, one person at a time,” said Trierweiler.
Leaders of the 40 Days for Life campaign have also worked diligently to fight obstacles faced by the pro-life movement. Chicago’s newly passed “bubble zone” ordinance is set to take effect Nov. 17. The 40 Days for Life efforts came under attack with the passage of the amendment prohibiting pro-life volunteers from approaching within eight feet of an abortion customer. The law, which is also opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union, carries a fine of up to $500 if violated. “Not only does this amendment infringe the rights of sidewalk counselors to provide compassionate assistance to abortion-bound women,” said Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League and director of the Aurora, Ill., 40 Days for Life campaign, “but it infringes on the rights of those women to make truly informed choices about abortion.” The Chicago-based Thomas More Society Pro-Life Law Center has vowed to fight the ordinance.
Looking to the Future
With a successful fall campaign completed, 40 Days for Life organizers now encourage individuals to discern leading a local campaign for the spring effort, set to take place Feb. 17-March 28. “In spite of an oppressive political climate, the pro-life movement is rapidly gaining ground,” said Bereit. “With more people continuing to respond to God’s call to ‘speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,’ I am confident that we are witnessing the beginning of the end of abortion in America.”
By the Numbers
• 40 Days for Life campaigns conducted to date: five national campaigns (2007-2009), six individual campaigns (2004-2007)
• Locations involved in campaigns: 282 cities in all 50 U.S. states, five Canadian provinces, Australia, Northern Ireland and Denmark
• Individuals involved in campaigns: More than 215,000 (does not include the numbers from the fall 2009 campaign)
• Churches active in campaigns: More than 6,000
• Abortion business employees who have ceased employment because of the campaigns: 23
• Abortion businesses that have closed down throughout the campaigns: four
• Babies saved from abortion during the campaigns: 2,003.
For more information about 40 Days for Life and to sign up for e-mail updates, visit 40DaysforLife.com.