This year during 40 Days for Life a woman exited the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Austin, Texas and stopped to talk to one of the sidewalk counselors praying outside the building. She was grief-stricken, having recently miscarried, and had come to the Planned Parenthood that day on the advice of her doctor, who recommended she remove the baby there. But then something happened inside the clinic that changed her mind about seeking treatment there.
She had been sitting in the clinic waiting room with others who were awaiting their abortion appointments when a woman nearby began sobbing. Mel comforted her, reassuring her that she didn’t have to go through with the abortion. Another woman in the waiting room overheard her words of hope and approached her, also crying.
Moved by these women’s pain, Mel opened up to them: she told them she would give anything to be in their places, because the much-wanted baby she carried inside her was already dead. Hearing this, one of the women stood up and announced that there was no way she was going to go through with her abortion.
At this point, a worker at the clinic burst into the waiting room. But rather than inquire about the expressions of grief and dread on the faces of the women she encountered there, she simply turned to Mel and commanded her: “Don’t talk to anyone!”
Unfortunately for the abortion-business, however, the damage was done. At least one woman in that waiting room, after hearing just a few words of hope and solace from a commiserating stranger, decided not to end her child’s life. She was not berated, harassed, shamed, or made to feel guilty about her impending abortion appointment. Instead, she was empowered by her encounter with someone who expressed genuine compassion for her plight, and who believed she could dare to overcome the odds rather than succumb to defeat.
This attitude of empowerment, which enabled a woman to believe that she did not need to resort to abortion, and that she was not alone in her fear and grieving, encapsulates the heart of what 40 Days for Life promotes. While pro-abortion advocates will continue to label the campaign “mass-harassment” in order to justify their own resentment of pro-life forces, 40 Days for Life continues annually to prove them wrong with growing numbers of participants and lives saved.
But while 40 Days for Life is but a weeks-long campaign, hopeless women enter abortion clinics each and every day. One needs not wait for the next campaign in order to maintain prayerful vigil, or provide words of hope, outside clinics.
Having personally trained as a sidewalk counselor with Central Texas Coalition for Life, which also spearheaded 40 Days for Life here in Austin, I can attest to the power of the pro-life presence outside abortion clinics. Our presence, whether it to be one person or fifty, is a symbolic one for a woman in crisis – it acts an unspoken statement that she does not need to resort to abortion, that there is hope in other alternatives, and that there is someone waiting to help.
I know this not just because I have trained as a counselor and prayed outside of clinics, but also because I once was one of those hopeless women considering abortion.
Those women need what I did: to know that there are those who believe inequivocally in choosing life, and that they are nearby, full of hope, and ready to help.