Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Vigils offer 40 days of continuous prayer near abortion clinics

By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published October 15, 2015

ATLANTA—Organizers of 40 Days for Life to end abortion estimate that 251 lives have been saved worldwide since the start of the current prayer vigil with that many women choosing to continue their pregnancy instead.

Atlanta is one of 307 communities around the world conducting simultaneous 40 Days for Life campaigns from Sept. 23 through Nov. 1.

The intensive campaign focuses on prayer and fasting for an end to abortion and includes peaceful vigils and grassroots educational outreach. In a 40-day time frame, people in local communities pledge to pray and fast for an end to abortion. They also commit to a 40-day prayer vigil outside an abortion center or Planned Parenthood facility. In many cases, the vigils are conducted 24 hours a day. Additionally, some form of community outreach accompanies the vigils.

The pro-life effort began in one Texas location in 2004 and then other cities joined. The first nationally coordinated campaign was in 2007.

Steve Karlen, North American outreach director of the 40 Days for Life project, visited prayer vigils in Atlanta, Marietta, Forest Park and Roswell Oct. 6-8.

The sites include the Feminist Women’s Health Center, 1924 Cliff Valley Way, Atlanta, where there is a vigil daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Alpha Gynecology and Consulting, 410 Villa Rica Way, Marietta, where the vigil is from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. daily; and North Georgia Family Planning, 11205 Alpharetta Highway, Roswell, where there is a vigil 24 hours a day. The vigils take place in a nearby public right-of-way.

While visiting, Karlen noticed a more positive response from passers-by, including waves and thumbs up, than in other areas of the country.

“It happened a whole lot in the Atlanta area. I’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm,” he said.

At the vigils themselves, Karlen observed people of all walks of life. He noted that it takes all members of the body of Christ to accomplish the goal.

“That’s the spirit of 40 Days for Life,” said Karlen.

“We can’t stand by idly anymore”

A Madison, Wisconsin resident, Karlen said he never acted on his pro-life beliefs until a co-worker of his wife had an abortion. His wife initially talked the co-worker out of having the abortion and promised to help her. A doctor later convinced the woman to have the abortion.

“That was sort of the moment: 40 Days for Life was a way for me to do something,” said Karlen.

From 2008-2012, he helped lead Madison’s 40 Days for Life campaign and also helped launch campaigns in other Wisconsin communities. In 2009 he helped spearhead a statewide response when it was revealed that the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics had reached an agreement to perform late-term abortions near campus. He orchestrated a series of demonstrations, vigils and large rallies that drew thousands of participants. As a result, the plan to provide these abortions was scrapped.

News reports this year about Planned Parenthood’s involvement in the sale of organs and tissue of aborted babies has sparked renewed commitment to 40 Days for Life.

“We’ve seen more volunteers coming out. We can’t stand by idly anymore,” he said.

Karlen emphasized that those opposed to abortion cannot wait for legislative remedies and the approach of 40 Days for Life is not political.

“Abortion is reduced to a political issue. Abortion doesn’t take place in the White House,” he said.

It’s a matter of changing hearts, and he urges those on the fence about participating in vigils or rallies to attend.

“I would encourage someone who’s reluctant or hesitant to just try it one time. It’s a very touching experience. It’s not going to be something that’s confrontational,” Karlen said.

Many parish groups have signed up for the local vigil hours including the 16-hour vigils taking place daily at the Feminist Women’s Health Center in Atlanta.

First-time volunteers often stay involved, and Karlen called the 40 Days campaign an “entry point” into the pro-life movement.

“They feel the Lord call them back again and again,” said Karlen. “We love to see people on day 41 still want to be involved.”