Six years ago, a pro-life group prayed for guidance in how best to reduce abortion in their area. The fruit of that prayer is 40 Days for Life. The group was led to focus forty days of prayer, fasting, and repentance for an end to abortion in their community of Bryan-College Station, Texas. A thousand people responded to the call, with dramatic results: a 28% decline in the number of abortions in their area.
News of this new vision of prayerful activism soon spread to other communities. In the fall of 2007, 40 Days launched its first nationwide campaign, with 80 cities participating. By the spring of 2010, over 300 cities, representing all 50 states, six Canadian provinces, as well as cities in Australia, Northern Ireland, and Denmark, had held 40 Days vigils. In its wake, 40 Days has seen thousands of mothers decide to let their babies live, as well as dozens of clinic workers quitting the abortion business.
Back at Ground Zero, the Fall 2009 campaign saw the resignation of Bryan (Texas) Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson. Ms. Johnson viewed an ultrasound and “I just thought I can’t do this anymore and it was just like a flash that hit me and I thought that’s it.” Ms. Johnson also noted that Planned Parenthood’s business model was focusing more on abortion. “The money wasn’t in family planning, the money wasn’t in prevention, the money was in abortion and so I had a problem with that,” she stated. With more than 20 years’ experience defending pro-life activists, LLDF is well aware that where the pro-life message comes in direct contact with the abortion juggernaut, legal conflicts are almost sure to follow. On several occasions, LLDF attorneys have intervened to ensure that the 40 Days campaign could proceed as planned, without unlawful interference from the clinic or law enforcement.
For example, shortly before the Fall 2009 campaign was scheduled to start, city officials in Pomona, California, told 40 Days’ organizers that they needed a parade permit—and no permit would be forthcoming. LLDF attorney Allison Aranda contacted the city and resolved the issue in time for the campaign to begin on schedule—without a permit. Pro-lifers in Merrillville, Indiana, were harassed by a city police officer on special duty “protecting” the Planned Parenthood clinic by shouting at them over his patrol car’s PA system, making communication with women virtually impossible. Again, a letter from LLDF to the chief of police resolved the issue. The offending officer was removed from the assignment, and other officers were instructed on their duty to remain impartial.
Sometimes the threats are less direct or are directed at “residual” 40 Days activity, where pro-lifers inspired by the 40 Days campaign decide to continue their prayer and sidewalk counseling after the official vigil is over. For example, Planned Parenthood Golden Gate attempted to have longtime pro-life activist Ross Foti held in contempt for allegedly violating a court order. In so doing, PP’s attorneys argued that all persons at the clinic at the same time as Foti, including many 40 Days pray-ers, were “acting in concert” with Foti and thus also bound by the injunction. After a two-day trial and extensive posttrial briefing, the court ruled that Foti was not in contempt, noting that PP’s evidence of others “acting in concert” with him was particularly weak.
LLDF also is working with 40 Days’ organizers to prevent problems before they start. Allison Aranda has participated in organizational meetings and seminars with leaders, instructing them on the law, answering their questions, and assuring them of legal assistance in case of problems.
“The 40 Days campaign has truly led to a re-awakening of the Christian community about the scourge of abortion in their own towns and cities. 40 Days is saving lives and changing hearts. We are honored to assist this effort, to smooth its path and clear away obstacles in any way we can,” said Aranda.
[Information on 40 Days for Life may be located at 40DaysforLife.com—Ed.]