Anti-abortion activists join in 40-day campaign
She mouths the words to a prayer, looks up and smiles before turning around to retrace her steps and begin another prayer.
Clark and others walking or standing on the sidewalk outside the clinic are participating in a national campaign to end abortion. The 40 Days For Life campaign includes prayer and fasting, door-to-door community outreach, and constant vigil outside abortion clinics for 40 consecutive days.
“I prayed here before with Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish prayer group for three hours at a time,” Clark, 64, said. “I believe prayer affects everything. To me (abortion) is just one of the saddest woes of our country.”
The Everett 40 Days for Life campaign began on Sept. 23 and will go through Nov. 1. Nationally, 212 cities in 45 states are taking part in the fall 2009 campaign. Local campaigns are also occurring in Bellingham, Bremerton, Olympia, Renton, Seattle, Tacoma, the Tri-Cities and Vancouver.
The campaign started in the fall of 2004 in College Station, Texas. A national campaign began in 2007 with participation in more than 80 cities in 30 states. Everett resident Michelle McIntyre, 43, was the campaign coordinator in fall 2007 for the first 40 Days For Life event in Everett.
She has participated in this fall’s vigil twice a week since it began, she said. Her husband and 8-year-old daughter join her for one hour a week.
Those who pass by have offered signs of encouragement such as honks of a car horn, waves and the occasional thumbs-up sign. Others express opposite sentiments, yell angry comments or criticize a clothing choice or the presence of children, McIntyre said.
“We don’t discuss all the details of abortion but (my daughter) knows what’s going on when a mom is pregnant that there’s an actual human life there and that abortion is the taking of that life,” McIntyre said. “She understands that women make that decision usually not out of hatred for the child but mostly out of confusion and a feeling of not having anywhere to turn.”
The campaign is also important to fall campaign coordinator Ed Mohs, who said he became involved in the movement through church activities as a junior high student in 1970.
The topic is very personal for Mohs, 54, who was conceived out of rape and later adopted. He grew up in a family of eight children and is married with four children and seven grandchildren.
“This is a big part of my life, this is part of who I am,” he said during his hour of daily morning vigil at the site. “And in my case, if my mother had an abortion I wouldn’t be able to tell the story.”
He expects about 100 people to take part in the continuous vigil. Volunteers come from all over Snohomish County, and six are from Kirkland.
His mother, Mary Mohs, is part of a St. Pius X Catholic Church group that takes part in the vigil Thursday mornings.
“We’re seeing less people than when we first started,” she said. “The first week it seemed like the door was swinging all the time and last week when I was here for an hour I only saw two people go into the clinic, which I think was a blessing.”
Those who participate in the campaign sign a statement to be peaceful and stay away from the clinic’s property, Ed Mohs said. Participants speak with the clinic’s clients and hand out pamphlets and other materials from the public sidewalk.
The 40 Days For Life volunteer presence is felt by those who use the clinic’s services, according to 17-year-old Rachel Duren, who was at the clinic that day.
Duren said she’s seen the signs volunteers prop up against street signs and has been personally approached by someone participating in the campaign.
“They’re always there,” she said, and some people have told her they feel uncomfortable, harassed and judged by the protestors. “I think if they’re going to do that they need to follow a different code. They could move a block or two away from the clinic.”
There have been no documented problems between the clinic’s staff and clients and those taking part in the Everett 40 Days For Life campaign but some patients have voiced their concerns, said Brian Cutler, communications director of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest.
Volunteer escorts offer security by greeting clients and walking them from their cars to the clinic entrance, he added.
“The protesters are there to make our patients and staff uncomfortable,” he said. “Only about 8 percent of what we do is abortion and 92 percent of what we do is education and prevention. Planned Parenthood does more every day to prevent unintended pregnancies and abortions than the protesters will do in 40 days.”
Campaign volunteers are well aware Planned Parenthood offers services other than abortions, McIntyre said. They are there to pray for an end to abortion.
“We’re here to pray and just hoping our prayers are answered,” she said.
Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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