Religion in Society

Pro-Life Movement at "Tipping Point"

| by Baptist Press

WASHINGTON -- Although 40 Days for Life only has two full-time employees, the organization continues to make significant pro-life progress both nationally and globally.

"Momentum is building, results are accelerating and we are seeing more people in more places having more impact than ever before," David Bereit, the national campaign director for 40 Days for Life, said in a teleconference.

The campaign's founders, Bereit and Shawn Carney, started 40 Days in Bryan/College Station, Texas, in 2004. Following the first campaign, abortion rates in that community dropped by 28 percent, Carney said. Still, the men said they never expected the movement to gain as much success as it has the past couple of years.

After a wave of interest came from cities across the country, Carney and Bereit launched 40 Days nationally in the fall of 2007.

"We just started to see God use this campaign with very little or no help from us," Carney said.

The campaign consists of 40 days of prayer and fasting to end abortion, as well as community outreach and peaceful prayer vigils outside abortion clinics. This fall's effort was conducted in a record 238 locations internationally.

On Nov. 16, 40 Days held an international teleconference and web simulcast in which it outlined the future of the campaign. The conference/simulcast, called "The Tipping Point," shared the success of the latest campaign and some of 40 Days' plans.

During the most recent campaign, which ran from Sept. 22 through Oct. 31, the organization reported 788 unborn lives saved from abortion -- and the number continues to rise as more local groups report numbers to the national office. The organization also stressed these numbers are just the lives that volunteers know for certain were spared, meaning the actual number is likely even higher.

Beyond lives saved, the organization also reported during this fall's session that eight abortion workers quit their jobs and two abortion facilities shut down permanently. The founders themselves were "in awe to see the numbers come in," Carney said.

During the teleconference, other volunteer campaign leaders also shared their experiences from the fall campaign. Robert Colquhoun of London led the first 40 Days campaign in England. He noted tensions on the issue of abortion are even worse there than in the United States, saying he knew the 40 Days project was "counter-cultural by British standards."

While those opposed to the pro-life message tried to discourage volunteers in England, the pro-lifers didn't back down. Once during the vigil, students dumped a bucket of water on the volunteers, but they just laughed it off and continued praying, he said. The cause was covered by several secular British publications, and by day 39 there were 55 people praying at the vigil.

Volunteers for 40 Days also played a role in closing down an abortion clinic in Severna Park, Md., the founders said. The clinic, Gynecare, had already been in danger of closing because the abortion doctor there had his medical license revoked.

Carney and Bereit named the conference "The Tipping Point" after a book written by Malcolm Gladwell. In the book, Gladwell explores how his experience in journalism showed him how small gestures can make big impacts. Once these small things cross a certain threshold, change is inevitable. The 40 Days directors suggested this pro-life campaign is becoming just that -- a tipping point.

During the conference, Bereit outlined some factors to validate the claim that pro-life movements are reaching a tipping point in America, including: a decreasing number of abortions performed; decreasing number of abortion providers; pro-life gains in national and state governments; shifts in opinion polls about abortion, and the response of the abortion industry.

"We get all the abortion industry mailings, and we're on all their e-mail lists. These folks are communicating right now defeat, despair, retreat; they are in panic mode," Bereit said. "At that same time, we see right now unprecedented unity and forward progress in the pro-life movement."

Bereit pointed out 40 Days is being targeted by the abortion industry: Planned Parenthood named 40 Days as one of the top three threats to "choice," and the American Civil Liberties Union identified the group as the "single greatest threat to choice," Bereit said.

"This level of persecution tells me that we are getting that much closer to victory," Bereit said. "The bottom line of all of this … is that these indicators show we are seeing a tipping point moment … and I believe we have evidence that indeed this is the beginning of the end of abortion."

The next 40 Days for Life campaign will take place March 9 through April 11. The organization has already made plans to add more locations both nationally and internationally.