Watch out for “quick fixes”; 40DFL campaign concludes; WMUR story of interest

Affirming life without “quick fixes”

Suggesting that a pregnant woman has to give up her child for adoption to make reparation for premarital sex is no different from the pro-choice mother imposing abortion on her daughter to make reparation for “unprotected sex”. Both attitudes are truly misogynistic and anti-life.

That’s from Béatrice Fodor in 400 Words for Women. In this thought-provoking post, she asks pro-lifers to take a fearless look at their own approach to women experiencing crisis pregnancies. Start your week by reading her short and challenging essay about the “quick-fix mentality.”

Another 40 Days for Life campaign wraps up …

Tune in next spring for the next 40DFL effort in your area. The international director, Shawn Carney, posted in an email this morning that 476 women are known to have chosen life for their children as a result of 40DFL prayer witnesses outside abortion facilities.

I hate seeing metrics used in this context. I hate scorecards and polls about pro-life work, as though standing up publicly for life should depend on whether the numbers keep going up. I understand why someone tracks the figures, though. In a way, those numbers force us to consider the actual women who make up that “476.” Each has her own story. The numbers may also provide a small measure of reassurance to the pro-lifers who ask if their participation makes any difference. Yes, your peaceful and patient witness matters.

Locally in southern New Hampshire, the Greenland and Manchester campaigns ended with special gatherings for the volunteers. My hat’s off to the 40DFL organizers in both places. Bob Melnyk and Jackie McCoy come to mind immediately, but I know there are many other dedicated people who kept the campaigns going. My thanks and respect go out to all of them.

… and there are still opportunities for prayerful witness

To stay up to date with the schedules for peaceful pro-life vigils outside abortion facilities in New Hampshire, the best source I know is NHRTL’s email alert list. You can email info@nhrtl.org and ask to be put on the list.

Tune in Wednesday for WMUR report on human trafficking in NH

I just saw a promotional spot on TV for this, and I’m sorry I have no further information – not even from the WMUR web site! WMUR-TV, the ABC affiliate in Manchester, New Hampshire, is presenting a locally-produced special report this Wednesday, November 6, on the 11 p.m. newscast. The subject: human trafficking in New Hampshire.

I haven’t previewed the report. In fact, I know nothing about it beyond what I saw in the brief promo. I’m pretty sure that I glimpsed Theresa Flores on the screen, as one of the people being interviewed. I have heard her speak about her own nightmarish experience as a victim of trafficking when she was a teenager. It was hard for me to believe that a teenager from a quiet suburb could be coerced into the sex industry without her parents’ knowledge, until I heard Theresa talk about what happened to her.

As a woman and a mother, few things make my skin crawl like realizing other women and other women’s children are caught up in human trafficking today, here in New Hampshire. I’d like to believe such things don’t happen, or if they do, that it’s only in big cities far away. Theresa ripped off my blinders. I’m going to watch WMUR’s report to hear what she and the other people interviewed – including local law enforcement officials – have to say about what’s happening.

I know that earlier special reports are available on the WMUR web site. Perhaps this one will be posted there as well after it airs.

I doubt WMUR’s report covers the nexus between human trafficking and the abortion industry. It’s left to reporters like the brave souls at Live Action to report on that.

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40DFL campaign in final week; event next weekend

This fall’s 40 Days for Life campaign comes to an end next Sunday, November 3. If you’ve thought about participating but haven’t been able to manage it, get information on your area’s campaigns at the 40 Days for Life web site.

The Manchester NH campaign is closest to me. Next Sunday afternoon, I know the 40DFL team is going to gather at 2 p.m. at a Manchester church for a potluck. Go to the “40 Days for Life Manchester NH” Facebook page for details.

Some of the 40DFL participants outside PP in Manchester have told me that there is now a spray-painted red line on the sidewalk, compliments of either PP or the building’s management (Metropolis Property Management, a unit of Anagnost Companies). Presumably, this delineates the edge of the property. Since 40DFL is limited to the sidewalk in any case, I’m not sure why someone went to the trouble of investing in a can of paint.

40DFL will be back in the spring. Since the first 40DFL in the autumn of 2007 in Texas, it has grown to become a twice-a-year international effort. A peaceful pro-life presence outside an abortion facility may represent the only “options counseling” an abortion-minded woman will get. It’s a powerful witness to the workers as well.

40DFL leader visits Manchester NH for midpoint rally

Steve Karlen got off a plane in New Hampshire Tuesday afternoon and was on Pennacook Street in Manchester by 1:30. He was due to be in Greenland, an hour away toward the Seacoast, at 4. Later, he was expected in Haverhill, Massachusetts. His trip will take him to southern New England and finally to Schenectady, New York, before he gets to go home to Wisconsin. That’s what it’s like to be North American outreach director for 40 Days for Life.

Bob Melnyk, Manchester's 40DFL coordinator, with Steve Karlen
Bob Melnyk, Manchester’s 40DFL coordinator, with Steve Karlen. Ellen Kolb photo.

(Yes, “North American.” 40DFL has gone global.)

Midpoint message: “stand strong”

Bob Melnyk photo.
Bob Melnyk photo.

Steve’s whirlwind tour of New England comes at the midway point of the current 40DFL campaign, which began September 25.  He enjoys his field work. As he told participants outside Manchester’s PP facility today, “This is where the action is taking place. You may be the only thing standing between Planned Parenthood and a post-abortive woman, or between Planned Parenthood and children who are particularly vulnerable to abortion.” He’s aware that the 40-day twice-a-year campaigns can be challenging; his own involvement with 40DFL dates back to the second-ever campaign in the spring of 2008. “Zeal may be giving way to exhaustion. Stand strong; you are the light of Christ here.”

Praying outside PP in Manchester (E. Kolb photo)
Praying outside PP in Manchester (E. Kolb photo)

I was present today to hear Steve as he spoke to about twenty people (who didn’t look the least bit exhausted) in front of the Pray for Life center across the street from PP. Then, as we did last night during a midpoint evening vigil, we crossed the street to pray quietly in front of PP. The office, while open for business, seemed dormant. The local 40DFL regulars have told me that the big-traffic day is Thursday weekly, when surgical abortions are done.

What are they hearing?

Last night’s vigil brought thirty of us together for prayer at 7 p.m., as PP was closing for the day. A lone security guard was posted at the entrance to the parking lot. He regarded us with curiosity as we prayed while walking in line, doing circuits between PP and the Pray for Life center. I brought up the rear. As I drew level with the guard, he remarked, “If this is all you’re going to do, I’ve got it made.” We chuckled as I proceeded on my way.

Think about that. What was he told to expect? 40DFL is an expressly peaceful effort. What are PP employees telling people? I have to wonder if something Steve said today is a factor: “Abortion centers are closing at a pace unprecedented since Roe v. Wade.” This coincides with the 40DFL campaigns beginning in 2007. Bad for business, I guess, leaving no room for kindness (or accuracy?) when describing 40DFL to employees and clients.

Pastor Colageo of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Manchester, reading from Psalms at 40DFL vigil. E. Kolb photo.
Pastor Colageo of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Manchester, reading from Psalms at 40DFL vigil (E. Kolb photo)

Building a strong campaign

Before Steve spoke to the gathering this afternoon, local coordinator Bob Melnyk asked him how he had established a consistently strong 40DFL effort back home in Madison, Wisconsin. “A lot of time on the phone, bulk emails, all building the base.” He gave credit to his local team, acknowledging “many hands make light loads.” What’s a lot of time on the phone? “Calls two or three hours a night, four nights a week.”

Wow. This guy could get someone elected. But Steve and his team, and Bob with his Manchester team, are doing something even more elemental to the culture than engaging in politics. They’re publicly and peacefully witnessing to the value of life, reaching mothers and fathers at a critical moment, and even reaching abortion workers who see the consistent presence of pro-lifers.

A story about that: Steve recalled how in the early days of his 40DFL involvement in Wisconsin, a late-term abortion practice was in the planning stage, with shameful cooperation from the local university. Pro-lifers started praying outside the medical building where the abortions were to take place. Months went by. Daily prayer continued. The abortion project was put off again and again. Finally, after a year, the plan was scrapped. Later, Steve and his fellow volunteers heard from some members of the university’s medical staff and faculty. There had been sharp division within the medical staff’s ranks, with the conscience rights of pro-life staffers under attack from colleagues. The pro-life staff members “lived through some dark days and great pressure.” One later told Steve that the concerned staffers took heart from the consistent and peaceful pro-life witness going on outside.

Evening prayer outside PP Manchester. Bob Melnyk photo.
Evening prayer outside PP Manchester. Bob Melnyk photo.

“Between 2 and 200,” says Bob when asked how many people are present during 40DFL hours in Manchester (7 a.m. – 7 p.m.). He told Steve about the Pray for Life center and about the new pregnancy support center nearby, both opened by volunteers who pray regularly in front of PP.

A few informal conversations on the sidewalk, a brief talk, a few minutes of prayer, and then Steve was off to meet the volunteers in Greenland. 40DFL has grown far beyond what he expected when he joined his first campaign. Now, his outreach means traveling all over the country, witnessing what he calls the “miraculous fruits” of 40DFL. Serves him right for stepping out in faith.

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40 Days for Life starting off strong in New Hampshire

40 Days logoLast evening, on the eve of the latest international 40 Days for Life campaign, New Hampshire women and men came out in force to commit to an intense peaceful, prayerful daily vigil outside local abortion facilities until November 3. I went to the kickoff rally in Manchester and had trouble finding parking – my first clue that there was an amazing turnout.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. 40DFL efforts nationwide have had powerful results.

There’s already an ongoing sidewalk-counseling effort at the Planned Parenthood office on Pennacook Street. Some of those activists have rented an apartment across the street from the office, as a place of respite and prayer, calling it the Pray for Life Center. That’s where we gathered last evening – myself and at least fifty other people, filling every one of the apartment’s tiny rooms, spilling out into the little back yard. The “rally” was more like a neighborhood party, with people of all ages laughing and chatting and eating dinner standing up.

There’s no “typical” pro-lifer anymore, if such a person ever existed. Kids, college students, young professionals, Women of a Certain Age such as yours truly, people well into retirement: all were there last night. 40DFL is an explicitly faith-based initiative, so secular pro-lifers were probably underrepresented. We had an impressive blend of people nonetheless. It’s worth noting that I met a lot of new people last evening. I’ve been involved in pro-life work in New Hampshire for the better part of three decades, and I’ve met more new activists in the past three years than in all the preceding years combined. The post-Roe generation has come into its own. They see themselves as survivors, and it’s sobering to think about how accurate that is.

Paul Swope, guest speaker at Manchester 40DFL kickoff
Paul Swope, guest speaker at Manchester 40DFL kickoff

We all went outside into the tiny back yard in the chilly night air to hear the speakers. There was simply not enough room in the apartment to accommodate a crowd for a formal program. Nice problem to have. We listened to Paul Swope of nearby Derry, whose labors in the pro-life vineyard have taken him from scrubbing floors in a Philadelphia nonprofit’s office to working in eastern Europe to promote the culture of life. He reminded us last evening of “the power of the pro-life message. I owe to this movement everything that is important to me,” pointing out his wife Jenny as an example.

As a young man, Swope had no problem with Roe, even paying for his onetime girlfriend’s abortion (“I was a gentleman,” he remarked with gentle irony). Seemingly minor experiences led him only a few years later to a very different view of things. He talked about his mother’s prayers for him – which he didn’t want; “part of my story is to give you mothers hope” – and the trip to Europe that brought him into contact with people and books that he had never encountered in the course of his Ivy League education. He cited the books Whatever Happened to the Human Race and Abortion: the Silent Holocaust as crucial to his pro-life formation. “I was weeping at what I read. [Those books] were God’s chisel. All my Ivy League graduating-at-the-top-of-my-class didn’t matter.”

Swope says that through 40DFL, “We know that great things are happening, and it’s the Lord’s work. There’s a lot to be thankful for. We have much to celebrate.”

Fr. Chris Gaffrey offers opening prayer in Manchester NH
Fr. Chris Gaffrey offers opening prayer in Manchester NFr. Chris Gaffrey of St. Thomas parish in Derry

Fr. Chris Gaffrey of Derry said, “This is what our 40 days of prayer and fasting should be about: not only for the children, but also for those who go in there [to the abortion facility] – be they the workers, be they folks feeling as though they have no other options. We ask for the kind of love that would make us willing to die for any of those people, not just the children.”

Meanwhile, over in Greenland, New Hampshire, another 40DFL crowd gathered in front of the Lovering Center for its own vigil. Jackie McCoy emailed me today with photos and a brief report. “Throughout the hour, we experienced the usual feedback from passing traffic–some thumbs up, some unfriendly loud honks, and the neighbor across the street running his lawn mower to drown us out, but … we count it as blessings when we are persecuted and we pray for them, and pray for the abortion Dr and clinic workers.”

Both 40DFL locations in New Hampshire welcome participants who will sign a statement adhering to nonviolence and cooperation with local authorities. (The statement also includes an affirmation that “I am in no way associated” with any abortion provider.) Hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., today through November 3. To sign up online to pray in front of PP or the Lovering Center during the campaign, go to one of these sites:

www.40daysforlife.com/Manchester

www.40daysforlife.com/Greenland

Full house in Manchester for 40 DFL kickoff, overflowing to the deck.
Full house in Manchester for 40 DFL kickoff, overflowing to the deck.
40DFL kickoff in Greenland NH. Jackie McCoy photo.
40DFL kickoff in Greenland NH. Jackie McCoy photo.

 

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More on Komen, a TX win, young pro-life leaders: Pick of the web, 7/29/13

What Really Happened at the Komen Foundation reveals never-before-publicized information about the tangle among the Susan G. Komen For the Cure breast cancer charity, Planned Parenthood, and a handful of women within Komen who tried to separate the two. This article was published last month in the online magazine Crisis, produced here in New Hampshire.

The abortion facility in Texas where Abby Johnson used to work has announced that it is shutting down.

Remember, it’s not too late to sign on with New Hampshire’s upcoming 40 Days campaign in Manchester; find more information on the Leaven for the Loaf Facebook page for July 23. (You can go to this blog’s sidebar and click on the Facebook emblem to follow the Leaven page, which includes items that don’t make it into the blog.)

Students for Life of America announced this week a pair of fellowships for high-school and college-age students, which will help prepare future pro-life leaders to get the pro-life message out to campuses as well as the larger community. Congratulations to SFL for a great initiative.