Advocates help save lives, convert souls

Participants stand in silent, prayerful protest at the kickoff of the 40 Days for Life campaign in Columbia Sept. 23. (Miscellany/Christina Lee Knauss)

COLUMBIA—As the sun started to set Wednesday evening, a crowd ranging from senior citizens to college students took up positions along Forest Drive. They held up signs calling for an end to abortion, prayed quietly or just stood silently.

The event was a low-key but effective beginning to the annual 40 Days for Life campaign, which started Sept. 23 and will run until Nov. 1. Kickoff events were held in Columbia and Greenville, and the event will also run in Charleston.

Each year, volunteers sign up to pray outside abortion clinics during the 40 days. In Columbia, they pray outside the Planned Parenthood in Middleburg Plaza and along nearby Forest Drive, which draws more car traffic and builds visibility.

Mark Baumgardner, organizer for 40 Days for Life in Columbia, offered some statistics to serve as inspiration for volunteers. He recently attended a meeting for leaders from around the world and learned how much impact the campaign has had since it started in 2007.

According to statistics, Baumgardner said 17,226 babies have been saved worldwide in the past 13 years, meaning mothers decided against abortion after talking with “40 Days” volunteers. Also, 206 abortion clinic workers have quit, and 107 abortion facilities have closed in areas where the prayer vigils have been held. In Columbia alone, he said that 45 moms have chosen life for their babies and four workers from Planned Parenthood quit.

“As Christians, we are the light of the world, and this is what you can help accomplish by signing up to pray here just two hours a week during the 40 days,” Baumgardner said.

The Columbia kick-off drew members of Advocates for Life, a pro-life student organization at the University of South Carolina. Several of the students were taking part in 40 Days for the first time, and a few said they were led to take action after seeing “Unplanned,” a film about Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood worker who became a pro-life activist.

“The pro-life issue transcends politics,” said group member John Mark Porter. “Abortion is an atrocity that defines our generation. We’re one of the generations that has survived Roe v. Wade, and for our members activism for life starts on these sidewalks.”

Interested in taking part in 40 Days for Life? Sign up for a prayer time online: