The next 40 Days for Life campaign will begin on September 27, and applications are being accepted through June 23 from potential campaign leaders. Coincidentally, here in New Hampshire, the leader of the most recent 40DFL campaign in Concord is inviting people to join her on June 17 in a morning of retreat and prayerful discernment.
Beth Gaby has arranged the retreat in Concord, calling it Seeds of Grace. It’s happening tomorrow, but she still welcomes inquiries for more information (firstname.lastname@example.org).
As an explicitly Christian ministry within the broad pro-life movement, 40DFL is founded on prayer. This retreat reflects that, with Mass and a rosary on the schedule as well as scripture study.
“Our goal…is to discern and map out a plan to grow a culture of Life in the greater Concord area.” Beth writes.
The retreat will be a time of calm, quiet, and reflection. No politics, no devices. I will not be live-tweeting the homily. (You’re welcome.)
Please, be with the participants in spirit and prayer on Saturday morning, even if you aren’t in attendance yourself.
“A Safe Harbor for Mother and Child.” Step by step, St. Gianna’s Place is on the way to becoming a shelter for pregnant and parenting women. Administrative details are in place: a board of directors; nonprofit tax status. Now comes the work of acquiring a house, most likely in Londonderry, New Hampshire.
St. Gianna’s is taking shape one step at a time, guided by board members and an increasing number of supporters. One of those supporters, Lynn, hosted me and several other women for coffee recently so we could meet Maria Szemplinski of the St. Gianna’s Place board.
Maria talked about the planned home and about the people whose vision has brought the project this far. She told us about the need for more shelter beds in our area: “our Calcutta is right here,” she said, evoking Mother Teresa. She talked about other shelters in the region and how their staffs have been generous in sharing their advice and experience with the St. Gianna’s team.
So what’s next? We asked Maria what we could do.
One obvious answer: fundraising. That wasn’t what Maria led with, though. She asked us to consider what our gifts might be.
I knew some of my fellow guests slightly, and had met others for the first time that morning: a student active in pro-life work at her school, people with experience working with at-risk youth, an adoptive parent. These were women with full lives, hardly in need of another project, but all of them eager to offer practical assistance to pregnant and parenting women. I was in a room full of potential mentors and teachers.
Our hostess was meeting one of St. Gianna’s most urgent needs by welcoming us for an information session. Spreading the word is critical to attracting the material support the project needs. Maria and her fellow board members welcome opportunities to speak with any person or group who’d like to learn more.
Maria made it clear that even at this stage, the St. Gianna’s board is on the lookout for people with the skills to work with women who want educational guidance, job training, and parenting skills.
Eventually, it will be time to furnish and equip the house that will serve as the shelter. There will be ongoing needs for food, baby supplies, and building maintenance.
There will be – there is – work for everyone who wants to make the shelter happen and help it thrive.
As the blog’s 5-year anniversary month winds up, I’ll take one last look back. It would be easy to reflect on things left undone, such as the failure to pass this or that pro-life law. Not today, though. This is about good news from the past half-decade. Just a few highlights.
No buffer zones. There are no abortion-related buffer zones yet in New Hampshire. Abortion advocates in both parties whisked an anti-First-Amendment law onto the books in 2014, and they have yet to use it.
While the so-called buffer zones could be imposed any minute now, the fact that none are thus far in place can be credited in large part to the New Hampshire residents who went to court as soon as the law was signed, with support from the Alliance Defending Freedom legal team. New Hampshire residents are ready to step up again if ever the buffer zone law is used.
New Hampshire has a law banning partial-birth abortion. That’s a big deal. This is a state where the right to life is given short shrift in the State House, to the point where even a women’s-health measure like abortion statistics is rejected time and again.
It took enormous effort to pass the bill in 2012 over John Lynch’s veto. You may recall that there was a 19-5 GOP majority in the state senate that year. The majority leader managed to persuade all 19 to support the partial-birth ban, whereupon the minority leader took to the Senate floor to compliment the majority leader for his masterful handling of the bill. As I said at the time,
…wait a minute here. Why was it such a big deal that a Republican majority leader got all of his caucus to support a bill to ban an abortion method that shades into infanticide? What is so controversial about that? Who had to be persuaded? (And why does the Democratic party defend partial-birth abortion?)
But I digress. The partial-birth ban was and is a good thing.
A new shelter for homeless pregnant women is coming to New Hampshire, as an existing one celebrates 30 years of service. I recently reported on the launching of the crowdfunding effort in support of St. Gianna’s Place. Over in Greenland, New Hampshire, New Generation has just turned 30.
These are grassroots projects by New Hampshire people who see neighbors in need and then work to serve them.
Pregnancy care centers are expanding their scope. Every New Hampshire pregnancy care worker I’ve met over the past five years has told me about services that extend far past crisis intervention and pregnancy tests. In fact, it’s time for me to re-name the blog’s “crisis pregnancy services” page.
Ultrasounds (and thank you, Knights of Columbus). Parenting classes. Clothing, baby needs, furniture and car seats. Referrals for services like housing. These aren’t add-ons. They’re integrated into a center’s mission.
On the national scene, mobile ultrasound units have come a long way since this blog’s first post. To mention just one project, Save the Storks sent one of their “Stork Buses” to Manchester last year to demonstrate each unit’s capability to support a pregnancy care center. (A Stork Bus will soon visit Keene.) More than a hundred Stork Buses are now in use. Not bad for an agency that hired its first employee in 2013.
Finally, another national note: I can’t look at pro-life cultural progress over the past five years without mentioning Abby Johnson. If she had done nothing but publish Unplanned, I’d be in her debt. She has since done much more. This is what can be done in five years.
As a former Planned Parenthood manager, Abby Johnson learned when she left PP that she faced financial, legal, and spiritual challenges on the “outside.” She founded And Then There Were None to support other people in her position. The ATTWN team has so far served hundreds of former abortion workers.
She co-wrote The Walls Are Talking, using her own high profile to draw attention to the life stories of former abortion workers.
The first Pro-Life Women’s Conference in 2016 was her brainchild – “can you believe it took 43 years to do this?” She brought together women from a variety of backgrounds – religious and secular, political and non-political – so that we could learn from each other and bring some new lessons home.
In every speech she makes, she tells about her Planned Parenthood experiences. She challenges PP’s “3%” claim and tells about its abortion quotas. She challenges abortion opponents who fail to see the need to build relationships with abortion workers. She calls for an increase in peaceful pro-life witness outside abortion facilities.
Good work from good people: spread the good news, and then go make some good news of your own.
At a recent New Hampshire event, I was pleased to see former state representative Laura Gandia, who was there promoting an exciting new project: a home for pregnant women in need of housing and other services. It will be called St. Gianna’s Place, and if all goes well, it will be located in Londonderry, NH.
The administrative framework is in place: board of directors, nonprofit status, and so forth. Now comes the next step: acquiring a house. That’s where you can help. Crowdfunding is underway, dedicated to the purchase of an appropriate building.
I hope to interview a St. Gianna’s board member soon. Until then, I’m happy to spread the word about their work to bring direct services to pregnant women. As co-founder Liz Neville says, “We are grateful for any donation amount as it will bring us that much closer to helping women and their unborn children live in a safe and nurturing place.”
Coming soon: the “March for Science,” actually numerous local Marches for Science, scheduled to take place Saturday, April 22. There will be New Hampshire versions in Concord and Portsmouth. From the event’s web site: “We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest.”
Okay, then – how about the evidence that human beings in utero are truly human beings? That would lead to some policies in the public interest.
Rehumanize International is up to the challenge. Members of the group will be attending various Marches for Science, carrying a pro-life message: “a human’s life begins at the moment of fertilization.”
The reception given to that message will tell me a lot about how much the March is really about science.
If you’d like to support the pro-life effort, Rehumanize International is selling “March for Science” kits for $10, with April 19 the last day to order them. I have no financial interest in the project; it’s just something that ought to get plenty of attention.
I like Rehumanize International’s hash tag for the March: #proscienceprolife. I think I’ll be pushing that one on the 22nd. Feel free to join me.
Image in this post is from Rehumanize International’s Facebook page.
The Equality Center is dark and unoccupied in the late evening, with only a few signs standing sentinel outside: Civility, Compassion, Love. Stop Sidewalk Bullying. Legal Abortion IS Pro-life. There’s no competition for parking spaces. Traffic is minimal – a startling thing, for someone who knows the city only from the hours when the legislature is in session a few blocks up the road.
In that tranquil midnight setting, with no fanfare and no confrontation, the city’s Spring 2017 40 Days for Life campaign drew to a close.
Students, Knights of Columbus, an Anglican priest, and a few of us with no particular affiliation were among the people joining campaign leader Beth Gaby for an hour of quiet prayer for everyone who goes in and out of the abortion facility, whether clients, workers, or contractors.
Beth brought 40DFL back to a city that had gone without a campaign for awhile. She had some challenges. One local Equality Center abortion supporter took to Facebook regarding 40DFL: “Victory is….intimidating clinic protestors [sic] to the point they get in their car and leave.”
Beth must have known from the vigil schedule which 40DFL participants were the targets of the angry woman. Beth’s response was to join those participants during their next scheduled hour. One of those participants later brought two more people with her to pray. The moral support was contagious.
A few hours before the Concord vigil, the Greenland, New Hampshire 40DFL team gathered for a closing rally, followed by prayer in front of the Lovering Center. The 40DFL volunteers took advantage of a splendid 70-degree spring day. Campaign leader Jackie McCoy sent an email afterward to supporters, including those who had been unable to attend.
“Thank you to all of you who have prayed, fasted and witnessed to life, from your homes and on the sidewalk. I got to speak with some of you at today’s closing rally, and I am always so impressed, and blessed by your steadfast support of 40 Days for Life, and the compassion you have for the unborn, their mothers, and also for those who oppose you.”
Jackie mentioned encouraging things from the campaign, including friendliness from a Center worker and increased news coverage in local media.
I’ve been a guest speaker at Greenland 40DFL in the past, and I am always touched by the warmth of the local team. Every rally wraps up with a “tailgate party” of sorts, with coffee and snacks, followed by a delivery of treats to the New Generation home across the street.
In the meantime, Cathy from the Pray for Life Center in Manchester invites pro-life witnesses to prayer vigils outside Planned Parenthood’s Manchester office on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This is not a 40 Days for Life campaign, but rather a year-round effort. See the Pray for Life Center’s Facebook page for more information.
See also this list of agencies providing direct, no-cost services to pregnant and parenting women in need of resources. Your support and your presence keep them going.