WASHINGTON, D.C. — The pro-life ministry 40 Days for Life may have ended its public vigils outside abortion clinics, but it is urging its members to still pray and fast for an end to abortion.
“The contemplative always has to come before the active. And we are learning that now more than ever,” the group’s president and CEO Shawn Carney said in an interview with EWTN Pro-Life Weekly on March 26. “It is the foundation, is prayer and fasting.”
“There are so many ways that we can be praying,” he said. “That is our most powerful weapon, against the devil and against the abortion industry.”
The ministry 40 Days for Life is operational in more than 30 countries and in 507 cities worldwide. Operating since 2007, the group orchestrates 40-day spring and fall campaigns of prayer, fasting, and non-stop peaceful public vigils outside abortion clinics.
Carney said Thursday that the group has been monitoring the coronavirus outbreak since the beginning of the year as it prepared to launch its spring campaign.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) has spread to 175 countries around the globe, resulting in nearly 500,000 confirmed cases, 70,000 of them in the U.S., as of Thursday.
With the virus spreading fast, by March 16, 40 Days for Life had limited all of its events to no more than 50 people at a time. On March 19, Carney limited the public vigils to ten volunteers at a time.
On March 22, the group acted to curtain its public vigils for the spring campaign “effective immediately due to the Coronavirus pandemic.”
As state and local restrictions on social gatherings started coming in “we just came to the conclusion it was time to go,” Carney said. “It’s the last thing I thought I would have to do this spring,” he said. “Certainly not something I ever want to do again.”
Planned Parenthood affiliates are still performing abortions. Two states, Texas and Ohio, have ordered abortion clinics to stop all or most abortions as part of curtailing non-essential medical procedures.
In Texas, Planned Parenthood led a coalition of abortion providers that filed an emergency lawsuit on Wednesday to continue abortions as “an essential, time-sensitive procedure” during the pandemic.
While 40 Days for Life members kept their vigils outside abortion facilities earlier in the spring, Carney said they had an increase in “saves” from the spring 2019 campaign, or the numbers of women who turned around and decided not to have abortions at the facility.
The pandemic had brought some unique challenges to those keeping peaceful vigils, including one episode outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Pittsburgh where members at a prayer vigil were coughed and sneezed on by antagonists. The behavior was so hostile that 40 Days for Life had to hire full-time security at two locations.
One clinic worker actually coughed on a woman who was praying, Carney said, extended the middle finger at her, and then entered the facility.
“We took all the precautions” against the virus, Carney said, and the four volunteers of that vigil sought testing for COVID-19.