40 Days in Toronto saves 10 lives
From Feb. 17 to March 28, thousands of people across North America participated in 40 Days for Life, a campaign that raises awareness about abortion through prayer, fasting and community outreach. Each vigil is held outside of an abortion site. The campaign reflects how God used 40-day periods in biblical history to bring about change.
The first 40 Days for Life campaign was held at Bryan College Station in Texas in 2004. Its success – a 28 per cent decline in abortions – contributed to its spread across the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia. Since 2007, there have been six co-ordinated 40 Days for Life campaigns in 307 cities, with 2,705 “turnarounds” (women who chose to keep their children instead of aborting). During this past campaign, 537 lives were saved. In Canada, campaigns were held in Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal.
In Toronto, one vigil was held outside of the “Women’s Care Clinic” at 960 Lawrence Ave. each day from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. There were placard holders and sidewalk counsellors speaking to people entering or leaving the abortion site. They also spoke to pedestrians and handed out pamphlets and other information. To Nicole Campbell, the organizer of Toronto’s 40 Days for Life, it was important “to pray and support (abortion victims) no matter what decision they end up making.” However, the experience was ultimately about “the conversion of souls, rather than just saving babies.”
40 Days for Life is important, because it impacts each person’s response to abortion and encourages spiritual growth by appealing to the power of God, said Campbell. They “show up to work and let God do the rest” she explained. Although it was hard to keep track of the number of participants, Campbell estimated about 400-500 took part in the spring vigil. There were at least 10 turnarounds.
There was a turnaround on the very first day of the campaign. The morning of Feb. 17 was not very successful for the counsellors. Almost nobody would speak with them. One counsellor began to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Meanwhile, a woman intending to undergo an abortion came over, listened to and spoke with a counsellor. Twenty minutes after she entered the clinic – the abortion facility is located in a larger medical office building – she came out and told him she would be keeping her baby.
One notable story involved a 16-year-old Asian couple driving to the facility. Campbell gave them a pamphlet through the open window of their car and offered them support. The girl started to cry after help was offered and Campbell showed them both pictures of fetal development and an aborted child. The girl admitted she was scared of telling her parents about the pregnancy, believing she would be pressured to abort anyway. After talking about the negative aspects of abortion, the couple decided to keep the child and asked for advice about support services.
Another case involved a man whose wife was sick, already had two small children and was headed into the abortion facility. He broke down upon seeing the picture of a 1-2 month-old aborted child and then rushed into the building to stop her. Although Campbell does not know if he was able to stop the procedure, experiencing a realization of the full severity of abortion is essential to stop it from occurring again. There were many other painful experiences witnessed by participants in front of the abortion facility: men forced to abide by a partner’s decision to have an abortion, mothers dragging their daughters into the facility and women who came out from having an abortion, pale and barely walking. “If you think this is pro-woman, come stand with us on the sidewalk and see the ultimate exploitation of women is abortion,” says Campbell.
Although most people ignore pro-life demonstrations, 40 Days for Life counters the usual apathy in a memorable way. “When they see people praying, it’s disarming,” said Campbell. Meanwhile, the workers at the abortion facility yelled and swore at the pro-life sidewalk counsellors and prayerful participants of 40 Days for Life. “Our response is to have no response, just silence and peacefulness.” Occasionally, a group of abortion supporters tried to intimidate them. Although most walkers seemed indifferent to the vigil, several people stopped to talk and were happy to take pamphlets and rosaries.
40 Days for Life, however, is not restricted to one or two periods during the year. Since last year, a vigil has been held every Saturday of the year. Campbell is also planning to hold vigils on two other days of the week. Furthermore, in May, she will provide training sessions for new sidewalk counsellors. Another 40 Days for Life campaign is planned to take place during the fall in Toronto and other Canadian cities.