It’s the Weather: 40 Days for Life Kicks Off Its Largest Spring Campaign
Being out in the cold and snow pays off. “We always see more babies saved per campaign in the spring campaign than in the fall, even though we have more campaigns in the fall,” Shawn Carney, head of 40 Days for Life, said Monday. 70 Christians had gathered at a Lutheran church for a kick off rally for the 40 Days for Life vigil in Lewisville, Texas.
Why is that? “The only explanation — that comes from the Midwest, where we have a huge presence in the spring — is the weather,” Carney explained. “There is an instant respect for somebody being outside in miserable weather. And it’s worth it because of the prayer, because of the fasting, and because this is too big to take on without those elements.”
40 Days for Life starts across the country on Wednesday, March 6, coinciding with Lent. This spring campaign consists of 377 vigil locations globally. That’s the largest spring campaign yet.
Lives Saved and Changed
Since its inception in 2004, 40 Days for Life has seen more than 15,000 moms decide against having an abortion. Seeing Christians praying and holding signs outside of abortion centers changed their minds. These are the women and children the organization knows of through personal communication. Another telling number, Carney said, comes from former Planned Parenthood employees.
The no-show rate goes as high as 75 percent when people are praying outside of Planned Parenthood locations, he learned. “Abby was the one who spilled the beans on that, and other directors since have confirmed it,” he said. Abby Johnson was the director of the Planned Parenthood location that Carney and others started 40 Days for Life at in 2004. She converted to the pro-life movement after seeing a sonogram-guided abortion. The movie about Johnson’s experience, Unplanned, opens in theaters March 29.
“They want to be gray.”
Whether the weather is miserable, Carney explained to The Stream, taking a stand for life outside of an abortion clinic has an effect. Why? Because abortion clinics thrive on the perception of a morally gray zone.
“It’s because everybody innately knows that abortion is wrong. Everybody is at least uncomfortable with it,” Carney said. “So when you witness to that — that things are not okay here, that this is wrong, and that we have alternatives — you say the obvious. You say the obvious. It doesn’t take any explanation. So that has a big impact.”
“Abortion facilities don’t want to be black or white,” Carney added. “They want to be gray, and they want to nest in an area, and they want to be in the medical district, and they want to blend in. And then they want to do abortions — without any attention. I would want that if I were running an abortion facility. A 40 Days for Life rally destroys all of that. It calls attention to it. It gets the media involved. It’s a public display of opposition — and we should have public displays of opposition to abortion.”
Local Opportunities and Challenges
Carney shared with the group that he would be in Jackson, Mississippi on Wednesday for the launch of their 40 Days for Life vigil. This abortion facility is the only one left in Mississippi.
“Mississippi is on the verge of being the first abortion-free state,” Carney said. Mississippians have held 40 Days for Life vigils outside of abortion facilities for 9 years.
A handful of states have only one abortion facility. In April, the count was six: Kentucky, Mississippi, North and South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wyoming. The last abortion facility in Tennessee closed indefinitely in December, but its website shows that it now open, which means the current count is likely seven.
Carney also shared that in Canada, Christians who want to pray outside of abortion facilities are facing “abortion bubble zones” — places where pro-life speech is banned. There, 40 Days for Life vigils must take place 50 to 150 meters from abortion facilities, Carney said.
“The media has been wonderful in Canada, and they’re not for life at all, but at one of our vigils, the media actually went in to interview the hospital, and they threw the media out of the bubble zone. And finally the media said, ‘This isn’t even free speech, now we can’t even do a report on it?'” Carney said. “And so there’s been some comic relief in some of these aspects, because they’ve just lost their mind on freedom of speech.”
Carney said that he’s spoken to people are hesitant to join a 40 Days for Life vigil, or are nervous when they first start. He said he was afraid when he started praying outside the new Planned parenthood in his college town, College Station, Texas.
“Having fear is a normal reaction,” Carney said. But, he added, “If abortion ends the life of an unborn child, then going out there to try to stop it is an appropriate reaction.”
Brian Fisher, co-founder and president of Human Coalition, also spoke at the Lewisville kickoff. He encouraged those gathered to continue overcoming fear and discomfort.
“We rescue, because we were recused. We put ourselves in uncomfortable situations on sidewalks outside of abortion clinics, because God himself put himself in the most uncomfortable, terrible position in the history of mankind on the cross. We sacrifice time and energy to do this work because Jesus Christ made sacrifices that we can never make. We rescue because He rescued us.”