September 22, 2010, marked the start of “40 Days for Life,” an international anti-abortion campaign designed to harass women and end access to abortion. The self-proclaimed “community-based campaign that draws attention to the evil of abortion” has taken place six times since 2007 and involves participants from all 50 states, Canada, Northern Ireland, Denmark, England and Australia.
This manifestation of the campaign may end on Halloween, but that’s not what makes it scary. The campaign has three components: “Prayer and fasting,” “Constant vigil,” and “Community outreach.” “Constant vigil” is another phrase for intimidation tactics, with participants protesting outside abortion clinics, or “place[s] where children are aborted,” 24/7 for over a month. The movement follows biblical tradition in its choice of 40 days—an attempt to justify hate through religion.
This movement is not entirely toothless either, despite its claims of peaceful dissent. Its website has a “Record of Results,” chronicling five clinics closing, 35 clinic employees quitting, and over 2,000 pregnancies continued as a result of the campaigns.
Women should and do have the right to decide at any point not to choose abortion. However, women should not be harassed and intimated into carrying a pregnancy to term. Women should not be shamed or stigmatized for choosing safe and legal abortion.
Scaring employees and bankrupting clinics (the goal of the “40 Days” campaign) are not such harmless activities, particularly when Virginia’s state government is gearing up to do the same. In Virginia, 86% of counties have no abortion provider. Now Attorney General Cuccinelli, Delegate Bob Marshall, Manassas City Council Member Mark Aveni (see page 121 of the document), Governor McDonnell and other anti-choice zealots are gearing up to end the practice of doctors brave enough to offer the procedure, returning Virginia to the backward era of illegal, dangerous, back-alley abortions that kill more women than they help.
“40 Days” is simply opening a new front in an ongoing war. If the anti-choice movement wins, it will be through fear, not persuasion, and it will hurt women and health care providers alike. Virginia is already losing doctors due to low Medicaid/Medicare reimbursement rates and a lack of debt relief for med school graduates. If the state sticks its nose further into the medical community it will be even more difficult to get doctors to stay in the state, let alone move here. Our country has been fighting for decades to increase access to health care. Now Cuccinelli and “40 Days” want to take away Virginians’ access to safe, legal, life-saving abortions. This cannot happen.
Good news, however. “40 Days for Life” is not the only religious organization talking about abortion. Faith Aloud describes itself: “As people of religious faith and conviction, Faith Aloud supports reproductive justice for every person. Because we have faith in women, we support ALL pregnancy options.” They too have a forty-day campaign, with a very different goal. “40 Days for Prayer to Keep Abortion Safe and Legal” seeks to lessen the stigma surrounding abortion by celebrating the strength of those who provide and undergo abortions. Visit their website to learn more.
We can’t let Faith Aloud do this admirable work alone. During “40 Days for Life,” it is especially important for abortion providers to remember that you support them, too. Send a letter, make a call, remind them that they are not alone, or join a “protest” to show your support for access to abortion services. These providers risk their lives every day to ensure that women have access to the safe abortions they are entitled to under Roe v. Wade and the U. S. Constitution. “40 Days for Life” wants to make providers’ lives even harder—don’t let them.
[Thanks to our intern Brett for her work on this post.]