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40 Days for Life participants in Hempstead, NYAuthor

(LifeSiteNews) — The 40 days of Lent began last week and maybe, like me, you haven’t yet come up with much to offer. 

Prayer, fasting (or giving up something), and almsgiving are the central observances of Lent, and the pro-life effort known as 40 Days for Life emphasizes the same things.  

People pray all year round in front of abortion centers, but 40 Days for Life is a focused, organized event that began in 2007 and is now held in over 600 cities around the world. So here’s a way you can combine Lenten observances with pro-life evangelization: simply pray with others outside a local Planned Parenthood or some other abortion center. 

The 40 Days for Life website lists locations across the country and internationally, local coordinators’ names and numbers, abortion center prayer locations, dates and times.  While many people join in weekly, there is no time commitment; you can go spontaneously as your time permits. This year’s campaign runs from February 14 through March 24. 

Catholic couples, families and individuals, many church groups, Respect Life ministries, the Knights of Columbus, priests and deacons, joined by their Protestant brethren, make prayer at an abortion center part of their Lenten devotions.  

Another growing population of those praying for an end to abortion are women and men who have suffered from the experience themselves. Just as many post abortive people give their time at pregnancy centers, so they also pray at the abortion centers in a beautiful effort to spare other parents the same grief and trauma they suffered and to save the lives of the unborn. 

Once at a designated abortion center, the local coordinator leads participants in the Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and other selected prayers. The intentions are for the young women and men involved in unplanned pregnancies to have a change of heart and reject abortion, as well as for those working in the abortion industry. If you think that’s unlikely, remember that prayer works! The last 40 Days for Life campaign saw the 250th abortion worker quit! 

RELATED: 40 Days for Life to continue prayer vigils outside German abortion mills despite proposed restrictions

“Sidewalk counselors,” people trained to speak to people heading inside abortion centers, offer assistance, including information at the nearest pregnancy center. This includes the full truth about abortion procedures, explanations of the ramifications for the mother’s physical and psychological health, and an ultrasound – all for free – whereas abortion centers routinely omit any negative effects of abortion and refuse to show the mother her ultrasound, all in a push to sell abortions…the only “choice” abortion centers profit from. 

Another key aspect of the 40 Days for Life campaign is fasting. Some participants fast as they pray at an abortion center; others who are unable to get to the abortion center to pary simply fast. That can mean abstaining from food, from media, or from buying products from companies that support abortion. Almsgiving is simple. We’re supposed to give from our time, talent, and treasure. Giving our time to promote the sanctity of all human life is another form of almsgiving. 

RELATED: Canadian pro-lifers unite for 40 Days for Life prayer vigils to end abortion

Because of 40 Days for Life’s efforts, an astounding 23,000 babies have been saved! The presence of people praying and offering help truly makes a difference. Of course they are noticed by those heading into an abortion center, but those driving past the site in their cars or trucks are also affected by the sight of people praying the rosary and holding signs reading “Please Let Us Help You!”; “Adoption, Not Abortion!”; “I Regret My Abortion”; “Men Regret Lost Fatherhood!”; and “See Your Ultrasound First!” Drivers often honk and wave and give a thumbs up or call out, “God bless you!”  

Young adults and kids walking, biking. or driving past are also alerted by the countercultural message. Last year praying in front of a Planned Parenthood, a young guy on his bike stopped to talk to the group of us praying. He shared that his older sister had had an abortion a year before and that she’s been “a wreck” ever since then.  “And I wish I had that little niece or nephew around now,” he added. 

Patty Knap, a freelance writer, is a member of LifeSite League.