I was a child of the ’80s. My Christian parents took me to pro-life marches, and we had a bumper sticker that said “Abortion stops a beating heart.” But then things quieted down. In spite of all the activism and rallies, not much changed. One Christian woman of my parents’ generation told me, “I think after the ’80s and ’90s passed with no change in laws, my generation got complacent and threw our hands up.”
It took a while for God to answer that prayer, but he did. In my mid-20s I moved into an urban neighborhood. My apartment was just around the corner from the local Planned Parenthood. I felt weighed down by the knowledge that lives were being ended every week, just a stone’s throw from my home.
I was haunted by a question I could imagine future generations, perhaps my grandchildren, asking me: “Why didn’t you do anything?” This is the question we ask of ordinary Germans who lived in the shadow of Nazi concentration camps. Some have defended themselves by saying they didn’t know what was happening, but we respond that they should have known. Perhaps they didn’t want to know. Now I was living in the shadow of an abortion clinic, and I knew what was happening there. Reluctantly, I decided I could no longer pretend it wasn’t happening.
Getting Involved in the Pro-Life Movement
I found my way in through a movement called 40 Days for Life. Each spring and fall, local chapters of 40 Days for Life hold peaceful vigils outside abortion clinics for 40 days. Anyone can sign up for a one-hour timeslot, with the goal of a constant presence in front of the clinics. Prayer is the main focus, but some volunteers also counsel women who want to talk, though they never shout at them or harass them.
I felt foolish and unsophisticated at first, standing on that sidewalk among the other volunteers with pro-life signs that hadn’t changed much since those marches in the ’80s. I felt conspicuous as cars drove by. But the women sitting in their cars waiting for the clinic to open felt conspicuous too, and after a while my focus shifted to them. I knew enough about the aftereffects of abortion to know most of those women would never be the same.
Some women were teary, others cavalier. Most wore baggy sweatshirts, and none wanted to make eye contact with us. Occasionally, a husband or boyfriend would tell us that he wanted the baby, but that there was nothing he could do to stop the abortion. Still more common was the man who dropped a woman off, leaving her to face the abortion alone.
When it came to talking to the women, I felt torn. Would telling them that they were about to kill a living human being, their own child, simply compound their guilt and shame after they had done it? I decided that the chance to keep them from ruining their lives (and ending the life of their unborn children) was worth it, though I chose my words carefully. Often, if I said anything, it would be “You don’t have to do this. We will help you.” I wondered if any of those women had woken up that morning praying for a way out, and I wanted to offer them one.
I felt bolder with the parents, grandparents, and boyfriends I talked to. “She is never going to be the same after this,” I would say. “She’s going to suffer. And when she does, come back to us, and we will try to help her through it.”
You Can Make a Difference
I would love to see Roe v. Wade overturned, but until it is, we can make a difference one life at a time. Women do change their minds. During every 40 Days for Life campaign, someone would drive past our sidewalk to introduce us to a toddler or child, safely buckled into a car seat. They would tell us that in a previous year, they had an appointment at the clinic, but when they saw us on the sidewalk, they couldn’t go through with it.
Even if you never say a word out loud, your presence in front of a clinic may save a baby’s life.
I would love to see more mothers of young children out on the sidewalk in front of abortion clinics. Unlike many ministry opportunities, you don’t need childcare to pray in front of a clinic. Your children actually enhance your ministry there by reminding women what the child in their womb will grow to be. I recommend sidewalk chalk for occupying kids while you pray. Their drawings will leave behind a reminder of the sweetness of childhood even after you leave.
There are many other ways to become active as a pro-life woman; you could volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center or become a foster or adoptive mother. You can vote for pro-life candidates at the state and national level, or even consider running for office yourself. You can give money to organizations committed to ending abortion, such as And Then There Were None, a ministry that helps abortion workers leave the industry and find other jobs, or the Psalm 139 Project, which provides ultrasound machines to crisis pregnancy centers.
In addition to these possibilities, I urge you not to overlook the ministries of prayer and presence. The fight to end abortion is not just a political or economic or medical fight. It is a spiritual battle. As you pray about how to get involved, here are some suggestions of first steps you can take:
- Go with a friend or family member to pray in front of an abortion clinic. It’s unwise enter this spiritual battleground alone.
- Have contact information for a crisis pregnancy with you. Even better, pick up some brochures that you could give to patients who may be open to changing their mind. Know the hours and location so that if a woman wants to leave the clinic and go to a crisis pregnancy center, she can follow you there.
- Find a 40 Days for Life chapter near you at www.40daysforlife.com. You can sign up for a time slot to pray in front of a clinic. Consider speaking to your church leaders about whether your church could commit to covering a whole day with prayer volunteers.
- Bring your Bible! If you don’t know what to pray, read through the Psalms asking the mighty God of Israel to defeat and tear down the stronghold of abortion.
- Go in hope that God has raised you up as his warrior to fight for the lives of the unborn and the hearts of their mothers.
Editors’ note: This text is taken from Women on Life: A Call to Love the Unborn, Unloved, and Neglected, edited by Trillia Newbell, 2016. Used by permission of Leland House Press and the Ethics & Religious Liberties Commission, 901 Commerce Street, Suite 550, Nashville, Tennessee 37203.