Roughly two dozen pro-life activists, students and clergy held a prayer vigil outside a Planned Parenthood facility in the nation’s capital on Tuesday, kicking off an international campaign to hold around-the-clock outreach efforts outside abortion clinics during the season of Lent.
In its 11th year, 40 Days for Life claims it has saved more than 12,000 lives by peaceably assembling outside abortion clinics and ministering to patients and employees as they come and go. The biannual campaign has teams in 340 locations in 40 different countries this year.
Katie Yoder, who’s spearheading the effort at Planned Parenthood’s Carol Whitehill Moses Center in Northeast, said having a pro-life presence at abortion clinics “saves lives.”
“It might be something as subtle as a car driving up to the clinic, and then slowing down and going past, and nobody ever walking into the clinic,” Ms. Yoder said Tuesday. “Or it might be a couple walking in and out, and you don’t really know if they decided to go through with an abortion or not. But your presence does make a difference.
“And if our presence saves lives, then shouldn’t we be out here as frequently as we can to make a difference?” she said.
A rainstorm greeted activists outside the D.C. Planned Parenthood on Tuesday night.
Activists held candles under black umbrellas and open palms in order to keep them lit.
People walked in and out of the Planned Parenthood facility during the vigil, but no one stopped to interact with the crowd.
Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, made an appearance during the vigil and thanked participants for braving the elements. Quoting the Gospel of John, she said the rain and darkness had biblical connotations.
“‘The light came into the world, and the darkness did not overcome it,’” Ms. Mancini said. “Thank you for being that light. Thank you for being here. The darkness of Planned Parenthood will not overcome the light because you are here.”
Arina Grossu, the director of Human Dignity at the Family Research Council, said it’s imperative for the pro-life movement to bear witness.
“This place is the gas chamber of our time,” Ms. Gorssu said. “We need to have a physical presence here. It’s not enough that we’re pro-life in the work that we do or how we speak to friends and family. That we’re present makes a difference.”
A group of Dominican friars was also in attendance at the rally on Tuesday. Wearing cassocks and holding candles, they sang two hymns to close out the evening.
Larry Cirignano, who helped to organize the D.C. rally, said 40 Days for Life began with four people and has grown dramatically since. He said the campaign provides inspiration for pro-life activists.
“There’s no motivator like meeting a mom who comes up and thanks you for helping her to get a sonogram and turn around,” he said.