40 Days for Life CEO: 'We're starting to see the end of abortion' amid uptick in pro-life millennials

A march participant holds up a pro-life sign at the March for Life in Washington, D.C., on January 22, 2016. | (Photo: The Christian Post/Samuel Smith)

The head of a prominent pro-life organization said he believes society is “beginning to see the end of abortion” as up-and-coming generations grow increasingly uncomfortable with the pro-abortion movement. 

“There’s a mass exodus out of the abortion industry,” Shawn Carney, president of 40 Days for Life, told The Christian Post. “Thanks to new technology and science teaching us that life begins at conception, I believe there is growing discomfort with abortion, regardless of how common it is.”

A 2019 poll from Students for Life of America's Institute for Pro-Life Advancement found that 93 percent of millennial-aged Americans do not subscribe to the official Democratic Party platform on abortion.

According to the 2016 Democratic Party platform, “every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured.”

The findings corroborate a January 2017 Quinnipiac poll, which found that 18- to 34-year-olds were more likely than other age demographics to support a ban on abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation. 

“The pro-life movement has gotten younger and larger, and I believe we’re beginning to see the end of abortion,” Carney told CP. “The response to the pro-life movement has been overwhelmingly positive, whereas it was overwhelmingly negative 20 years ago.”

Launched in 2007, 40 Days for Life is a global movement that orchestrates 40-day spring and fall campaigns of prayer, fasting, and nonstop peaceful public vigils outside abortion clinics.

Carney, himself a father of seven, said that so far, his organization is operational in more than 30 countries and in 507 cities worldwide. As a result of their efforts, nearly 17,000 lives have been saved, 196 abortion workers have quit, and 106 abortion centers have closed.

“We are not protesting; we are holding prayer vigils, taking a Christ-like approach of being peaceful and law-abiding,” he said. “Because of this approach, we’ve gotten a great response from those in the abortion industry.”

“Anytime there's an act of violence near an abortion facility, we hear abortion advocates say, ‘We know that wasn’t 40 Days for Life,'" the bestselling author continued. "It’s been wonderful to see such a positive response to our work. We wouldn’t have saved so many lives and helped so many people leave their jobs if we took a violent and judgmental approach. That would just be fuel to help justify their jobs.”

One of the most recognizable figures to leave the abortion industry thanks to the work of 40 Days for Life is former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson, whose story is featured in the 2019 film “Unplanned.” Following the release of the film, 40 Days for Life saw a 30 percent increase in volunteers. 

“Abby Johnson, a Planned Parenthood abortion center director, walked into my office on October 5, 2009, and told me she'd had a change of heart on abortion,” Carney recalled. “She was the 26th abortion facility worker to have a conversion and leave the abortion industry during a 40 Days for Life campaign.”

“Obviously, abortion workers don’t want us at their facilities in the beginning, but over the weeks, they start thinking about us and the work we’re doing,” he said. 

Abby Johnson, left, the former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas, stands next to Shawn Carney, National Campaign Director of 40 Days for Life, whose group prays outside the clinic. | (Photo: Coalition for Life)

Despite the “positive steps” toward ending abortion, Carney stressed that there is still a “culture of death” that pervades American society. 

“We have to acknowledge that we are in a crisis,” he said. “We’ve lost over 60 million children to abortion. Three thousand children are aborted every day. It’s an easy statistic to ignore because it’s overwhelming.”

Earlier this year, Carney released the devotional To the Heart of the Matter: The 40 Day Companion to Live a Culture for Life. The book provides direction and inspiration for all pro-life advocates seeking to make a difference in the ongoing battle for the unborn.

“In this book, I show how we can live out a culture of life every day, through our obligations, jobs, families, and marriages,” he said. “We didn’t get here overnight with the abortion crisis. I want people to know that when you live out your faith, that is living a culture of life and changing the world.”

40 Days for Life

In his book, Carney draws from real-life stories and statistics to identify practical ways pro-life readers can foster a “culture of life,” from engaging in prayer, fasting, and Scripture-reading to being intentional in their marriages and other relationships. 

“Our relationships have become superficial and distant thanks to technology. We’re not getting together or going to coffee, so we’re not having healthy recreation and human interaction. When we don’t, we can get to a very dangerous place where we no longer cherish life or care about human dignity,” Carney said.

“I have a whole chapter on simply taking your spouse on a date,” he continued. “When there’s no authentic love or respect between the parents of a child, it’s easier to discard the fruit of that relationship. Couples need to be fostering and growing their relationship to help build a culture of life.”

Carney stressed that the most powerful way to fight abortion is through prayer, adding, “We have to pray, daily, for an end to abortion. What a tragedy to let a day go by where we don’t pray for an end to abortion.”

For those who feel “overwhelmed” by the magnitude of abortion, he stressed that it’s possible to “change the culture in your daily life.”

“We need to get back to the basics; the heart of the Gospel,” he said. “Our Lord came into the world through a womb and through a family. The more we drift from that, the more we will support a culture that attacks marriage and the unborn child. We need to make an intentional effort to do these small, substantial things every day to foster a culture of life, trusting in our Lord all along the way.”

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