In an attempt to curb the abortion rate, volunteers in the 40 Days for Life campaign are praying, fasting and peacefully standing outside abortion clinics from March 5 to April 13.
The campaign is taking place in 522 cities across the United States and in 21 countries worldwide.
On March 4, the volunteers held a kick-off rally in front of Planned Parenthood in Riverside, where 800 candles were lit to raise awareness in the community.
Hannah Favela, a coordinator for the campaign in Riverside, said the volunteers were outside the clinics for a peaceful and prayerful vigil on the sidewalk for the public to view.
“We stand in memorial for the 800 lives that are lost to abortion every single day in the state of California, and hopefully the people passing by will see it and it will cause some people to contemplate the cost of those lives,” Favela said.
Riverside Life Services is a non-profit organization that participates in the campaign to help pregnant women make informed decisions and provide free services such as ultrasounds and pre abortion and post abortion counseling.
Casey Angelo, executive director of Riverside Life Services, told a story about a sidewalk counselor who helped change the minds of a couple who were going to get an abortion.
“The power of a sidewalk counselor standi ng out and not being obnoxious is to be there to love someone, guide that person and give wisdom to
someone who may not have known otherwise,” Angelo said.
Evan Lo, graduate assistant for ministry development in the Office of Spiritual Life, said prayer walks are a visible way to pray for people in specific areas.
“Without actually being there, it can be difficult to be led to pray for a specific person or area,” Lo said. “But when you are there, it is kind of funny how the Holy Spirit may say, ‘Let’s go down this way or talk to this person.’ It is tangible and there in front of you. It’s real and not just a thought.”
Jennifer Coburn, director of communications and marketing for Planned Parenthood of San Diego and Riverside counties, said Planned Parenthood supports every individual’s right to peacefully protest.
“We support quiet and peaceful protests that don’t stop the patient’s right to any service at Planned Parenthood,” Coburn said. “We encourage people who have an opposition to abortion to consider to help make contraceptive available and work together to prevent the need for abortions.”
Kristina Gargza, director of a pro-life activist group called Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, said since the beginning of the campaign 8,245 pregnant women have turned away from the abortion clinics because of the volunteers standing in front of the clinics.
“40 Days for Life is not just for the babies or moms or dads, but it is for the whole Riverside community,” Gargza said. “We need youth and our generation to be out there representing the truth.”
Garza said the name of activist group, Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, is significant because people who are alive have survived from being aborted since the legalization of abortions in 1973.
The 40 Days for Life campaign occurs twice a year, in the spring and fall. Volunteers of the campaign are asked to volunteer any free time from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., which are the abortion clinics’ hours.
During the last day of the campaign on Sunday, April 13, the Riverside community and it’s surrounding communities are invited to attend a peaceful closing rally from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. outside of Planned Parenthood in Riverside.
For more information, visit www.40daysforlife.com/riverside.