More than sixty people gathered in Manchester on Monday for an evening of prayer, pizza, and preparation in advance of Wednesday’s 40 Days for Life launch. A similar rally was held the previous day in Greenland. In Manchester, Save the 1’s Darlene Pawlik and attorney Michael Tierney were the featured speakers at the event emceed by 40DFL coordinator Jen Robidoux.
Quoting 40DFL leaders David Bereit and Shawn Carney, Jen said, “We are the last sign of hope for the mother and baby when they arrive, but also the first sign of mercy to the women as they leave.” She and her leadership team have ambitious goals, and they urge everyone volunteering for 40DFL to invite others to join in. “Invite people from your church – remember, 40 Days for Life is nondenominational. Invite people to events like the midpoint rally. Let’s fill those vigil hours [7 a.m.-7 p.m., seven days a week]. It’s time to blow the trumpets of victory. Tonight is the beginning of the end of abortion in Manchester.”
Jen reminded everyone that accepting 40DFL’s Statement of Peace is a requirement for participation in the campaign. Common sense dictates that people praying on the sidewalk outside abortion facilities keep a cell phone or camera handy to record any incidents, and “pray with at least one other person.” (As someone who’s on the calendar for some 7 a.m. shifts, I know I can expect some solo time. Still, her guidelines make sense.)
Darlene is fresh from an appearance on Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk, where she joined other Save the 1 representatives to talk about why she’s pro-life in all circumstances, especially “hard cases” like rape – because she herself is a child of rape and a survivor of sexual trafficking. She’s a New Hampshire activist with a heart for women and girls in crisis, particularly those who are being sexually abused. “The girls are hard” when they approach abortion facilities, she warned. From her own experience, she knows that some of the teens at abortion facilities are brought there by their abusers. “The mindset is ‘this is what I have to do; I can’t tell my parents.’ Your message needs to be ‘there are places you can go besides here.'” To sidewalk counselors, she says “You’re the heroes here.”
Michael began with a brisk reminder: “This is not a picket or a protest, and it IS legal.” His listeners were eager for an update on the buffer zone lawsuit, Reddy v. Foster. “The buffer zone law is all about squelching pro-life speech. Why? Because the pro-life message, especially prayer, is effective.” In a status report filed in federal court last Friday, all parties to the suit agreed that there had been no “factual changes” since a temporary restraining order was issued in July to block enforcement of New Hampshire’s buffer zone law. The restraining order thus remains in place. He asked participants to contact him or Jen Robidoux if any signs go up outside facilities, delineating a zone – “we need to report that to the Court.”
Why did New Hampshire go ahead with a law targeting free speech, right after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar law from Massachusetts? After all, the Supreme Court decision prompted the cities of Burlington, VT and Portland, ME to repeal abortion facility “buffer” laws. MIchael said that New Hampshire is attempting to show that its law is different, because the state itself isn’t squelching speech, but merely giving abortion providers the option of doing so. A novel approach, to be sure. It’s possible that the law might be repealed by legislators next January. Michael warned that it’s an open question whether it would be a straight repeal or a repeal followed by replacement with something worse.
Speaking of the Planned Parenthood facility in Manchester, where 40DFL has had several campaigns, Michael said PP knows it can’t defend the law. “So, they’re trying to figure out what they can get from people outside to show that we need a buffer zone. Be on your best behavior not because there are video cameras, but because of point #3 [in the 40DFL statement of peace]: ‘I will show compassion and reflect Christ’s love to all abortion facility employees, volunteers and customers.’ It’s as simple as that. Think about how best you can show Christ’s love, and you’ll be fine. Just because a person goes into a clinic, it doesn’t mean you’re not having a positive effect.”
Photos from the Greenland kickoff rally (photos by Jen Robidoux)