SPECIAL TO THE CATHOLIC HERALD
The pro-life activism of 40 Days for Life is among many operations dealt a huge blow by coronavirus when over the weekend Shawn Carney, president and CEO of 40 Days for Life, ended the Spring 40 DFL campaign.
In an email to volunteers, he urged volunteers to continue praying from home, fasting and uniting spiritually to pray for an end to abortion and the pandemic. He plans to continue daily emails on the effectiveness of the campaign.
“This was the toughest decision I’ve made serving as president and CEO of this lifesaving movement, but I feel it is the right one,” he said in his email. “Since we did the first campaign back in 2004, I have visited over 530 vigil locations and the safety of your family during a campaign is and will always be my number one priority.”
The outdoor rally involved groups taking shifts to pray and hold pro-life signs in front of abortion centers around the world. According to Dan Miller, state director of Pro-Life Wisconsin, while churches, stadiums, schools and restaurants are closed, the abortion clinics continue to remain open during the pandemic.
“They are all still open for business and are very happy to help the moms kill their babies,” he said.
Miller had kept vigil each day during the spring campaign, which was planned to run Feb. 25 through April 6. At least 18 babies were saved during the Milwaukee campaign, a fact Miller attributed to steadfast volunteers, despite the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We had been getting a pretty steady stream of vigilers each day,” he said.
In Sheboygan, Germaine Souik, campaign leader for Sheboygan 40 Days for Life, said the statewide closures brought more volunteers to pray outside Planned Parenthood than in previous campaigns. She recently took over for Bernice Gruenke, who stepped down from the 40 Days for Life leadership team due to health issues.
“I worked with Bernice through the last three campaigns since Planned Parenthood reopened in Sheboygan and started offering chemical abortions, so I have assumed Sheboygan’s 40 DFL leadership.”
As concerns of the virus spread, Souik said there were concerns about volunteers handling the “vigil bag” of informational materials that volunteers handle each day. Due to the number of volunteers being in the higher risk age bracket, Souik dispensed with the bag and instead found signs for each vigil participant to take home each day.
“I made a couple of trips to the site to deliver signs to participants and some have picked them up at my home,” she said. “We had a limited number of 40 DFL signs and quite a few Pro-Life Wisconsin signs that Dan Miller gave us that we were using. I placed an order in for more 40 DFL signs (to be used for the next campaign).”
Souik said that due to so many being off work, volunteers had also stayed longer to pray in front of Planned Parenthood.
“Sometimes people would show up unexpectedly and we had four or five at a time,” she said. “This campaign brought over 30 new vigil registrants to our website. We feel God really blessed our efforts here in Sheboygan and it has been fruitful. More in the community are taking notice.”
Milwaukee 40 DFL coordinator September Schubilske said before the campaign was halted, she was seeing a steady number of volunteers on site at Affiliated Medical Services and Planned Parenthood, as well as those praying from home. All the prayers are needed as she noted the escorts and the mothers coming in for abortions seemed to be more concerned with the virus than killing babies.
“The escorts outside were joking about the coronavirus and mostly saying to us, ‘stay away from us with your viruses,’” she said. “Some of the clients that were going had similar discussions with us that they were more concerned about the coronavirus than going there for the abortion.”
Schubilske was happy with the number of babies saved at Affiliated Medical Services and added that six were saved at Planned Parenthood.
“We do not know the total number of moms that decided to keep their babies, but we do trust in God and the power of prayer and that God is at work,” she said.
Steve Karlan, 40 Days for Life North American Campaign Coordinator, said that while they had initially dropped some campaigns due to the outbreak, they were abiding by CDC, national, state and local health authorities. Now that the campaign has ended, he said they are encouraging volunteers to pray and fast from home, and urges all involved to stay tuned as they are planning to make updates to the website that will assist with scheduling vigil participants to pray from their homes.
“So far, we had 271 babies saved over the entire campaign and that is a little ahead of where we were in our fall campaign,” he said. “No one seemed to be nervous who were gathered outside the clinics. We were practicing social distancing, but the biggest challenges were in locations with more senior citizens, especially those who relied on carpooling to pray at the sites.”
Karlan said that most abortion clinics continued to remain open but often closed for a half a day or a single day, but, he said it is only speculation that it is related to the virus as the times they are open are when the actual abortions take place.
“It is a huge issue, though, as we have reports of packed abortion facilities and how does that match up with the CDC and government mandating social distancing and cancelling elective procedures,” he said. “What can be more elective than an abortion?”
To keep up to date on the 40 Days for Life Campaign and to learn ways to keep vigil at home, visit https://www.40daysforlife.com. A regular podcast is also available on the site to keep volunteers updated https://www.40daysforlife.com/podcasts.aspx.