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 for a pro-lifer’s reading list

My semi-regular Basic Books feature is giving way to another blogger’s suggestions this week. Pro-Life Philosophy offers for your consideration Ten Books Every Pro-Life Advocate Should Read (And Own), including writing from abortion advocates. I agree with the blogger that understanding the “pro-choice” arguments makes one a better advocate for the life issues. I have read only one of these books, Aborting America, which is one of my Basics, so I cannot give any kind of recommendation for the rest of this reading list. Some of the titles are out of print but can be found online. So if you’re inclined, click on the link above to see how another blogger fills his bookshelf.

 

Basic Books: a pro-choice journalist uncovers the down side of sex-selection

Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men

by Mara Hvistendahl (2011: PublicAffairs/Perseus Book Group, eISBN 978-1-586-48991-5)

What can a pro-choice science journalist do when she sees a Chinese classroom with a surprisingly large proportion of boys? Mara Hvistendahl started asking questions, and she wound up going all over the world to find out why some cultures value one gender over another. Abortion was an inescapable part of her findings.

A culture that prefers one gender over another is, of necessity, not a culture of life. Hvistendahl reports on what she found in South Korea, India, China, and the United States. One troubling observation after another forces author and reader alike to examine how culture influences personal choices, and vice versa. Gender imbalance and the search for the perfect child, including in the United States, leave us with phenomena like sex-trafficking, bride-buying, and “designer babies.”

The author takes note more than once of how abortion “rights” and gender rights are both linked and opposed. “A woman should have the right to terminate a pregnancy, but she should not have the right to shape the individual represented by that pregnancy to her own whims.” [emphasis added] Hvistendahl is candid about her pro-choice beliefs even as she acknowledges the ambivalence caused by the data she discovered.

This is a long book, but it makes for quick reading. It’s written by a woman who is accustomed to writing about scientific topics for mass-circulation publications. She wears her pro-choice preference on her sleeve, but that doesn’t keep her from being taken aback by what she finds around the world. This is an important book not only for the information it provides, but also for the glimpse it gives the reader into the mind and heart of the author. She’s an abortion advocate honest enough to raise an eyebrow at some of the implications of her own beliefs.

Check out these Basic Books from earlier posts:

Unplanned by Abby Johnson

Deadly Compassion by Rita Marker

Aborted Women: Silent No More by David C. Reardon

Aborting America by Bernard Nathanson, M.D.

Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas

Planned Bullyhood by Karen Handel

Sen. Shaheen to be “special guest” at fundraiser with late-term-abortion advocate

 

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)

From the Huffington Post: Texas state senator Wendy Davis, who will go down in history as the abortion absolutist who filibustered a Texas bill (which passed anyway) limiting post-20-week abortions, is coming to Washington, D.C. next week for a pair of fundraising events. HuffPost lists eight U.S. senators as special guests, including New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen.

Shaheen is up for re-election in 2014.

No one is forcing Shaheen to attend. She is presumably accepting the invitation because she wants to help Davis, who may or may not be running for a higher office. Davis has reportedly received over $1 million in donations already since her filibuster.

I’ve written before about the two principal provisions of the Texas bill. Shaheen is supporting a woman who opposes making sure women are as safe in an abortion facility as they would be in any other ambulatory-care center. She is also supporting a woman who has no apparent problem with induced abortion of 21-week (or 31-week, or 39-week) human fetuses.

So will this be an issue when Shaheen is challenged next year, or will it be a “distraction”? Potential GOP challengers should chew on that one for awhile.