Tens of thousands of people on Wednesday kicked off reportedly the most widespread and longest coordinated pro-life mobilization in history.
40 Days for Life events are being held in 212 cities across the states as well as in Canada and Denmark as pro-lifers seek to shut down abortion clinics, save the lives of unborn babies, and simply draw attention to what participants say is "the evil of abortion."
Participants are taking what organizers tout as a peaceful and loving approach to tackling the abortion issue through daily prayer vigils outside clinics, fasts, and rallies.
"What we are about is compassion and love," Elizabeth McClung, a local 40 Days for Life coordinator in Austin, said on KLGO-FM.
The national campaign began just two years ago and already more than 215,000 people in 240 cities across the country and overseas have been mobilized. As a result of four previously coordinated campaigns 1,561 lives have been saved from abortion, 18 abortion workers quit their jobs and the abortion industry altogether, three abortion facilities shut down and hundreds of women and men have been "spared from the tragic effects of abortion," according to the organization.
After starting locally with a small prayer group in Bryan/College Station, Texas, 40 Days for Life has become a global campaign and has drawn record participation this fall.
"We have never before seen the intensity of passion and extensive involvement in pro-life efforts that we are seeing all across North America right now," said 40 Days for Life national director David Bereit. "This shows that support for the pro-life message is spreading – and that 40 Days for Life continues to have a positive international impact."
More than 90 of the prayer vigils are taking place outside the clinics of the nation's largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood. In Sarasota, Fla., clergy and pro-lifers are joining for 10-hour day prayers until Nov. 1.
"I believe you should pray to end abortion," Rosarita Chuanico from Bradenton, Fla., told the Bradenton Herald. "Life came from God. He is the only one who has the right to take it."
Participants are not looking to stir up conflict or confrontation. Clarifying that the vigils are not protests, Sarasota campaign event co-chair David Whitmire said they are only allowing one sign (that states they're praying to end abortion).
However, and not to the surprise of organizers, some abortion clinics are painting 40 Days for Life as a "harassment" initiative. In Houston, Planned Parenthood has asked supporters to "defend women's health" during the "40 days of harassment."
Along with the fall campaign, 40 Days for Life led the recent effort to oppose taxpayer-funded abortions. The group assembled a coalition, called the "Stop the Abortion Mandate," of more than 70 pro-life organizations and educated over 36,000 people about the abortion coverage they believe is included in the proposed health care reform legislation in a July webcast.