‘40 Days for Life’ event to start with vigil Sept. 23
Leave your comfort zone and join other supporters of life in prayer and action during the 40 Days for Life New Orleans campaign Sept. 24-Nov. 2.
“40 Days for Life is actually the largest, coordinated interdenominational pro-life effort in history,” said vigil coordinator Jill Arteaga at a pre-campaign launch party Aug. 14 at St. Angela Merici in Metairie. 40 Days for Life started in 2007 and has grown nationwide and to 40 countries.
"How powerful is it that you have people around the world praying for 40 days for an end to abortion and praying for the women considering abortion and for the babies, and the doctors and workers at the abortion facility that their minds can change,” she said. “Only through the Lord can that happen.”
The local event officially kicks off Sept. 23 at 6 p.m. with a vigil near the Planned Parenthood site under construction at 4636 South Claiborne Ave. in New Orleans. The closing event, Nov. 3, is at the same location.
Vigil planned for Metairie
The 40-day vigil is currently set for the Causeway Medical Clinic, 3044 Ridgelake Drive in Metairie unless the passage of House Bill No. 388 – signed in June by Gov. Jindal as Act 620 requiring doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles from where an abortion is performed or induced, among other stipulations – forces its closure.
The law was to go into effect Sept. 1. If that happens, the vigil would move to the South Claiborne Planned Parenthood site.
“We’re just so excited to be here this evening and really have this opportunity to gain strength from each other and pray for life,” said Mary Nadeau Reed, projects director of New Orleans Right to Life at the pre-launch event. She said prayer, fasting and a peaceful presence are the focus of the 40-day vigil.
Archbishop Gregory Aymond, lauded not only as the leader of the Catholic community in New Orleans but an “incredible pro-life advocate,” was the key speaker. He attributes the degradation of society to the Roe vs. Wade 1973 Supreme Court ruling.
“Do I dare say that we’d ever think this many years later that it would have such an incredible, dramatic effect on our nation? That sad moment when the Supreme Court made that decision to legalize abortion tragically affected American society. And 41 years later, we are standing here and looking back over those 41 years realizing that over 56 million babies have lost their lives.”
He said Roe vs. Wade enabled a “culture of death” in the United States and opened the floodgates for states to justify and allow euthanasia, the death penalty, human trafficking and pornography.
“Once we devalue the life of the unborn and do not respect that human life, it’s very easy to say, if you are ill, we’ll kill you or we will help you kill yourself. If you’re on death row, just put them to death, they did wrong – their life is not worth it. Human trafficking? Who cares? We make fun of other people’s body in pornography. Who cares?”
Next generation leads
But he sees the tide changing in attitudes, primarily among young adults, whom he calls courageous.
“The young people in our society have strong voices, and they are being heard and they are making a difference.”
He said pro-choice supporters often ask why pro-lifers are so hung up on the issue of abortion.
“It is easy to answer. … Man and woman are made in the image of God. … Yes even before our baptism, God called us his own. And we believe then because God said humanity is sacred and reflects him in that goodness. We believe that in the womb at the moment of conception that what is there is not a membrane or a glob of tissue, but it is human life.”
He said, pro-choicers and those involved in Planned Parenthood often say pro-lifers don’t care about women’s health.
“We say, ‘No we are not insensitive. Should it be a woman’s choice to take life. We thought only God had a right to give life or take life.’ And, we do not believe that a man, woman or anyone else should play God. … Yes, we do care about the health of women in the pro-life movement. Yes, we do care a lot about the woman’s physical health, her emotional health and her spiritual health. That’s why we take the stance that we do, because we care.”
He said prayer and fasting as Jesus did are powerful tools during the 40 Days for Life, and he encouraged compassionate prayer for those considering abortion, those who have had an abortion so “they will come to a merciful God and know forgiveness,” prayer for a change of heart of the doctors and nurses in the abortion industry; and prayer that the pro-life voice for the unborn is heard throughout the community.
“When we participate in the 40 Days for Life we become a living witness,” he said. “We say we are willing to walk with people to offer them support as they come in and out of an abortion clinic or Planned Parenthood. Our presence reminds them that they have a choice. … that there is a God who is calling them to think about alternatives. In participating in the 40 Days for Life, we let God use our compassion to speak and to change hearts.”
Archbishop Aymond sees the difference that 40 Days for Life is making.
“We know of at least 8,973 women who have been spared the pain of abortion because of the 40 Days for Life,” he said. “We know that because of the 40 Days for Life, 100 people working in the abortion industry have quit their jobs. We know that 56 abortion facilities have been closed because of 40 Days For Life and other activities. We know that God makes a difference and he uses you and me to make a difference.”
Louisiana’s Right to Life Federation executive director Ben Clapper cited two numbers as motivation for participants to start a vigil group in their church: 1,974 abortions were performed in Jefferson Parish, and 2,196 were performed in Orleans parish in 2013.
“We need to have people as boots on the ground as silent, prayerful witnesses to the value of human life,” Clapper said. “We never know if we are planting the seeds or if we are the ones watering, but we do know that nothing happens if we don’t show up and we don’t play a role and take a stand.”