“Last sign of hope, first sign of mercy”

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.

Jen Robidoux (blue shirt) welcomes Darlene Pawlik to the 40DFL kickoff rally
Jen Robidoux (blue shirt) welcomes Darlene Pawlik to the 40DFL kickoff rally (E. Kolb photo)

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 Pawlik (E. Kolb photo)
Darlene Pawlik (E. Kolb photo)

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 Tierney (E. Kolb photo)
Michael Tierney (E. Kolb photo)

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)

Greenland, NH 40DFL volunteers
Greenland, NH 40DFL volunteers

 

On the sidewalk, Greenland NH
On the sidewalk, Greenland NH
Past the picket fence at the Lovering Center abortion facility, Greenland NH
Past the picket fence at the Lovering Center abortion facility, Greenland NH

 

 

 

 

Meet Manchester’s 40DFL coordinator for Fall ’14

A year ago when I attended a 40 Days for Life kickoff in Manchester, New Hampshire, it was standing-room-only at the Pray for Life Center. Already, the leader for the campaign beginning in a few weeks has lined up more spacious accommodations. She knows what to expect.

Jennifer Robidoux (Facebook photo)
Jennifer Robidoux (Facebook photo)

Meet Jen Robidoux, a 40DFL veteran, who’s stepping up to coordinate Manchester’s Fall 2014 campaign.She’s been part of the support crew before, but this is her first time as a team leader. “Only for one campaign, I’ll try it out. If it’s too much, I’ll step back and maybe somebody else can pick it up. I have a team of four other people. One of them has been with me for the last two campaigns, so she knows what to do. The two of us have been making sure everything’s getting all set.” — set, that is, for a kickoff on September 22 followed by the campaign itself running from September 24 to November 2.

Jen is not only a 40DFL coordinator now. She’s also a plaintiff in Reddy v. Foster, challenging New Hampshire’s buffer zone law. Nevertheless, she says, “I’m really a very introverted, shy person. I got roped into [40DFL] by a friend.” From there, she read Abby Johnson’s Unplanned and David Bereit’s 40 Days for Lifeand from them, “I see what a peaceful witness can be like.” All 40 Days for Life campaigns are resolutely peaceful in all three components: prayer and fasting, community outreach, and the most visible element, prayerful vigil outside abortion facilities.

She’s been praying at the Manchester Planned Parenthood facility on Penacook Street for several campaigns now. Jen knows It’s the epicenter of the buffer zone battle. “I wanted to do it there. That’s one of the reasons they wanted to put the buffer zone in – because of 40 Days and the Pray for Life Center. We’ve got to keep up the pressure there.

Jennifer at a recent pro-life event in Concord (E. Kolb photo)
Jennifer at a recent pro-life event in Concord (E. Kolb photo)

“If we are to bring an end to abortion we must be peaceful on the sidewalk. In my estimation, peaceful means people smiling, praying, being respectful to anyone who walks by or goes in or out of that clinic. In order to reach them, we must be loving to them. That means showing the same respect for them that we want them to show us.”

The sidewalks are of course open to anyone (for now), including people not affiliated with 40DFL. How about that? “I am going to ask everybody [with 40DFL] to focus on why they’re there. They’re there to pray. The other people there are there to sidewalk counsel, protest, whatever. But we are there as a prayerful witness.” The Manchester 40DFL team is considering using a designated part of the sidewalk outside PP, but that is not finalized at this point.

As a Reddy v. Foster plaintiff, Jennifer knows that everyone on the sidewalk outside PP is under a microscope. “We need to be aware we’re going to be watched. I’ll want to ask if someone can be a videography and photography person at all of our events,” to provide documentation by pro-life witnesses. “I have Michael Tierney a phone call away” – Tierney being an attorney representing the Reddy plaintiffs. “I’ve already asked him to speak at the 40 Days kickoff.”

Jen welcomes new 40DFL participants. She says that she has often prayed alone during her 40DFL vigil hours.  “I have a set time, so I let people know when my time is. If anyone would like to join me, they’re more than welcome.” She intends to make sure Manchester police are aware of the campaign, and she says she’d welcome any police observation of the rallies and vigils.

Having at least one prayer witness outside Manchester PP from seven a.m. to seven p.m., seven days a week is an ambitious goal, but that’s what Jennifer is aiming for with this fall’s campaign. She says that as far as she knows, there will not be a Concord 40DFL this fall, so those who have participated in 40DFL outside the Feminist Health Center are welcome to join Manchester’s effort. She is taking news about 40DFL to faith communities in the area, too. “People [in Manchester] tend to associate 40 Days with the Catholic church, but it’s a non-denominational pro-life organization.”

40 Days logoShe’s occupied with the campaign’s administrative details, but she has a sharp eye on the purpose they serve: reaching abortion-minded women and abortion-industry workers, and standing up for the children at risk of being aborted. “Throughout the whole national movement, I‘ve heard that the national pro-choice movement is dropping the term pro-choice and trying to find other ways to encompass their views. I look at that and say OK, you can try to re-brand yourself. The pro-life movement has done that too. But you’re still doing what you’re doing.”

Getting involved:

Mark your calendars now: 40 Days for Life will run from September 24 to November 2. The opening rally will be a couple of days ahead of time, September 22 (a Monday) at Ste. Marie’s church in Manchester. There will be gatherings at the midpoint and end of the campaign as well; details are pending. New to 40DFL? Catch up on the project’s web site.

Jennifer reports that the 40 Days for Life web site has been revamped since the last campaign. Anyone signing up to participate, even 40DFL veterans, will create a new online account. The vigil calendar for the Fall 2014 campaign is not yet online but will be up shortly. Watch Leaven for the Loaf‘s Facebook page for updates.