40 Days for Life defends its methods against slurs

An interview with 40 Day for Life National Director David Bereit

40 Days for Life is a grass-roots movement to end abortion through prayer and fasting, constant vigil at places where preborn children are aborted, and community outreach to educate and mobilize the public.  Nine coordinated national 40 Days for Life campaigns have been conducted since 2007.  A Lenten campaign is currently underway.
Interviews with 40 Days for Life leaders David Bereit and Shawn Carney appeared in the January and February 2009 issues of Catholic World Report, as the movement was beginning to spread rapidly through the United States.  CWR recently contacted National Director David Bereit for clarifications about certain recent news reports.
CWR:  The 40 Days for Life campaign in London has been repeatedly accused in the press of “bullying” or “intimidating” women, even of pointing video cameras at women who go into the clinics. Participants in 40 Days for Life reply that they must sign a pledge to be non-confrontational. Are the vigils in London significantly different from the peaceful, prayerful demonstrations in the U.S.?
David Bereit: 
The vigils in London use the exact same approach as those in the United States. Having just been to visit three of the 40 Days for Life campaigns in England a few weeks ago, including the London campaign, I can attest to their non-confrontational approach and to their use of the same statement of peace that we use.
Unfortunately a publication that regularly takes a “pro-choice” position, The Guardian, simply regurgitated the abortion facility’s false accusations without doing the research to find out that the cameraman in question was an independent person filming a documentary, who was not involved with 40 Days for Life. The “bullying” and “intimidating” actions they alleged were people praying, and others who were gently offering assistance to the pregnant mothers and referrals to local pregnancy help centers. The article was then circulated by other media outlets (including the Associated Press here in the U.S.) that did not even bother to check in with us or with the London 40 Days for Life leaders to verify or correct the accusations.*
CWR:  Have the widely-publicized scandals involving Planned Parenthood changed the way in which the 40 Days for Life campaigns at those facilities are perceived?
Bereit:  The scandals at Planned Parenthood have significantly fueled participation in 40 Days for Life campaigns held outside Planned Parenthood facilities, and we are seeing record numbers of people stand up against the abortion chain in communities coast to coast. We have also been encouraged to see two more Planned Parenthood abortion centers close during the current 40 Days for Life campaign, and numerous Planned Parenthood workers leave their jobs, thanking the 40 Days for Life participants who had been praying for them.

CWR:  Over the past two years the prospect of mandatory health insurance in the U.S.A. has politicized the debate over abortion even more. Has this in any way affected the ability of 40 Days for Life to plan and conduct vigils and to educate local communities?

Bereit:  If anything, the national debate about the abortion mandate in the Obama healthcare overhaul, and about the HHS mandate requiring religious employers to violate their consciences by paying for insurance with mandatory coverage of abortion-causing drugs, has awakened a sleeping giant. We are seeing record numbers of Christians getting active in pro-life efforts on every front. 40 Days for Life campaigns are growing larger than ever before, and we are seeing more positive results than in any of our past efforts. As people realize that the fundamental rights to life and religious freedom are under attack, they are finally coming out of their homes, workplaces, and churches to take a peaceful stand for life and justice.

* Additional resources:

• London 40 Days for Life leader on the BBC
On-the-ground report of what things are really like

If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

About Michael J. Miller 127 Articles
Michael J. Miller Michael J. Miller translated Priesthood and Diaconate by Gerhard Ludwig Müller for Ignatius Press and Eucharist and Divorce: A Change in Doctrine? for the Pontifical John Paul II Institute.