FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — One year ago, abortion procurer and Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson stood opposite participants in the 40 Days for Life campaign in College Station, Texas. This year she’s on the side of the culture of life, giving speeches to encourage those praying outside abortion businesses across the country.
“We need to believe that more people will come out of the abortion industry because our God is a God of miracles,” she told those gathered in Fayetteville, Ark., for the kickoff of 40 Days for Life’s fall campaign.
It only took days for Johnson’s prayer to be realized.
On Sept. 25, an abortion nurse in El Paso, Texas, left work and handed a slip of paper with her telephone number on it to one of the prayer volunteers.
“Please help me find a new job,” she said. “I quit.”
And in Severna Park, Md., where 40 Days’ campaigns have been taking place since the fall of 2008, the Gynecare abortion business has closed.
“This is the seventh time the Lord has responded to 40 Days for Life volunteers’ prayers by closing the doors of an abortion business,” said David Bereit, national director of 40 Days for Life. “Previous abortion businesses have closed in Fayetteville, Ark., Montana, Dallas, and Orange County, Calif.”
The fall 40 Days’ campaign began Sept. 22 and will end Oct. 31. It is 40 Days’ largest campaign yet, with campaigns taking place in 238 cities in 46 states, six Canadian provinces, Australia, Northern Ireland, Denmark and, for the first time, London.
However, the ministry isn’t just about reaching out to abortion businesses and abortion workers. It’s primarily about reaching out to mothers and fathers and their unborn children. The fall campaign has already witnessed success there as well.
“Within the first six days, we’ve had 62 confirmed lives saved, where mothers are confirmed who are now working with a crisis-pregnancy center,” added Bereit. By Day 8, 75 babies had been saved.
The 40 Days for Life campaigns have been taking place since the first one started in College Station, Texas, in 2004. With campaigns every spring and fall, they combine a 40-day prayer vigil outside the local abortion business, fasting and outreach. Those unable to pray outside the abortion business are invited to pray throughout the campaign from their homes, churches or workplaces.
Since 40 Days started, more than 2,811 lives have been spared from abortion and the campaigns have involved more than 350,000 individuals praying and fasting for an end to abortion.
Bereit said that not only has the effort grown tremendously, but they’re seeing other changes as well. He explained how one campaign in an area often leads to others. For example, a man involved in a campaign in Southfield, Mich., was so moved he started another campaign in nearby Dearborn. Likewise, a single campaign in the San Gabriel Valley area has led to seven others in California.
Originally, said Bereit, 75% of those involved in the campaigns were Catholics. More recently they’ve seen an increasing involvement among non-Catholics. A campaign in Orlando, Fla., Bereit noted, has included 70% of its involvement by evangelical Christians.
Bereit has also noted an increased involvement among Catholic bishops, many coming out on to the streets in front of abortion businesses to pray. Bereit estimates that approximately 42 bishops have been involved in a campaign.
Camden, N.J., Bishop Joseph Galante recently took part in the 40 Days’ campaign praying outside of Cherry Hill Women’s Center in Cherry Hill, N.J. Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt will be closing the Twin Cities’ 40 Days’ campaign outside of St. Paul’s Regions Hospital with prayer at the end of October.
Diocese of Fargo, N.D., Bishop Samuel Aquila has been involved in a 40 Days’ campaign since it first started there — outside North Dakota’s only abortion business — in 2007. Not only has he prayed outside the Red River Women’s Clinic, but he has also written a letter asking all of the priests of the diocese to spend at least one hour in front of the abortion facility each year during the 40 Days’ campaign.
“We’ve been very impressed,” said Tanya Watterud, director of communications for the Diocese of Fargo. “The priests are there a lot, even when they’re not scheduled. They’ve been great leaders.”
It’s that kind of prayer and witness that has inspired others to get involved in the campaigns.
Tracie Rademacher, a homemaker and mother of four living children from Big Lake, Minn., said that her life was changed by last spring’s 40 Days campaign. Having had an abortion at 16, she said that in recent years she felt she needed to do something to help educate others. After doing research online this spring, Rademacher discovered a 40 Days campaign taking place outside a Planned Parenthood office in St. Cloud, Minn.
“I went there with my ‘I Regret My Abortion’ sign all rolled up,” said Rademacher. “I feared judgment.”
When she arrived, someone thanked her for coming and hit the sign, saying, ‘Oh, you brought your own sign.’
“The sign flew open, and I just stood there,” said Rademacher. “Instead of judgment and ridicule, I received hugs and love and acceptance. It was so empowering and freeing to have people know what I had done and not condemn me. I turned around, held up the sign, and it was as if a huge weight had been lifted off me.”
Rademacher eventually signed up to pray and be a witness outside that Planned Parenthood every Saturday of the spring 40 Days’ campaign.
Rademacher noted that the trauma of abortion can sometimes take years to rear its head for post-abortive women. It wasn’t until she had her other children, many years later, that the reality of her actions hit her.
“It took that long for me to realize what was growing inside of me wasn’t a group of cells; it was a baby,” said Rademacher. “Having an abortion didn’t make me un-pregnant; it just made me the mother of a dead baby. That never goes away.”
Tim Drake is based in St. Joseph, Minnesota.