“Missouri has such a story to tell, and you’re all part of it.”
Kathy Forck spoke to about 60 people wearing facemasks and holding signs and candles on the sidewalk outside Planned Parenthood in Columbia.
It was the opening rally and prayer service for the 40 Days for Life Fall Campaign.
“Your prayers, your sacrifices, your fasting, your wonderful work — it’s making a huge difference,” said Mrs. Forck, co-director of Columbia 40 Days for Life.
“This is hallowed ground that has been blessed and blessed and blessed by you and many priests and pastors that have come here, and God is protecting each and every one of us,” she said.
Now in its 12th year, this local observance of the twice-yearly, nationally-observed period of prayer and fasting includes peaceful vigils from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day on the sidewalk outside Planned Parenthood, 711 N. Providence Road.
Abortions are no longer performed at the Columbia location, but women seeking abortions are given referrals there.
“As you know, when we first started praying here 11 years ago, there were approximately 11,000 babies who were aborted in our state,” said Mrs. Forck.
About 800 of the abortions that year took place at the Columbia Planned Parenthood, “the one we are praying so fervently will close,” she said.
The total number of documented abortions in Missouri dropped to fewer than 1,400 in 2019.
This year, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, 11 abortions were performed in the state in February, 18 in March, 14 in April and five in May.
“We have always prayed for an abortion-free Missouri,” said Mrs. Forck, “and God is blessing us with that just about every day now.”
But the work and prayers cannot stop.
It’s been a year since the last abortion was performed at Columbia Planned Parenthood, but women still go there, seeking referrals.
“I can’t tell you how many people turn away from this place because our people are here on the sidewalk,” said Mrs. Forck.
Surrounded by silent prayer from 40 Days for Life participants, sidewalk counselors refer women to My Life Clinic, a full-service pregnancy resource center across the street, as well as the Pregnancy Help Center in Jefferson City, Ray of Hope in Macon and many other resources available in the state.
“In less than six weeks,” Mrs. Forck stated, “we know of four women who have come here and could have chosen abortion, but because they went across the street instead, we have reason to believe that their babies are still safe inside the womb.”
Prayers, thanksgiving and personal witness filled the sidewalk during the prayer rally as rush-hour traffic sped by and the sun gradually retreated over the horizon.
Rachel Blackmore of Columbia, and outreach and development director for Churches for Life (getintolife.org), assured the crowd that God intends to do amazing things during these 40 days.
“And I pray that we’re all utterly amazed when we look back at this time,” she said.
She called to mind words and phrases that persist throughout the Bible — “immovable,” “endure,” “withstand,” “steadfast” and “stand firm.”
“As we consider the truth that God made man in His own image, and we see that human beings are to be loved and protected,” she said, “we start to ask ourselves, ‘What kind of action can WE take to stand firm in this truth?’”
Taking a public stand can be very difficult, “especially if you’re holding a sign and praying for an end to abortion,” she said.
But it does make a tremendous difference.
It affects the person doing the praying, the women who are seeking an abortion, the people who work in the building and give referrals, and the community as a whole.
“The reality of abortion is undeniable right here,” she said. “Watching something evil take place compels us to pray and speak the truth, and not just on the sidewalk. We pray every day for the evil of abortion to end.”
People who drive by and see people praying and holding signs are challenged to think about the life-affirming messages the signs and prayers contain.
“Some respond positively, some respond negatively,” said Mrs. Blackmore. “Either way, they see this message and they have to face it.”
The sidewalk presence also gives hope to pregnant women in crisis, when they need it the most.
“When we stand firm for life, we are telling women that they are amazing creations of God,” she said. “And we can give them hope for their future and hope for their baby’s future.”
Mrs. Blackmore told of her own experience of finding out she was pregnant a week before her 18th birthday – three weeks before high school graduation.
“I knew I was going to have my baby,” she said, “but I didn’t know if I would be a good mom.”
A neighbor offered a prophetic message.
“She told me that I was going to be a great mom and that my baby was very lucky to have me as her mom,” Mrs. Blackmore recalled. “She told me that God had chosen me and crated me to be that baby’s mother.”
Her son was born that winter and accompanied his mother through her college and graduate studies and related activities.
“Every accomplishment that I have been blessed with has been richer because I did it with him,” she said.
She and her husband now have six children.
The people who pray on the sidewalk and those who counsel there help women realize that “we can do so much more than the people in that building would have us believe we can do,” she said.
The victory is God’s
Other speakers talked about how participating in 40 Days for Life had helped them pray and encourage people in their own lives who were facing pregnancies in crisis.
It also helped them realize that no one is so far away from God that He cannot reach them.
Mrs. Forck noted that this year’s campaign was getting started — as did the first one in 2009 — on Sept. 23, the feast of St. Padre Pio.
“We implore all of the living on earth and in heaven to join us in prayer during these upcoming 40 days,” she said.
Looking back on 11 years of 40 Days for Life in Columbia and recalling the people who have been fighting for decades to uphold the sanctity of human life, she called to mind Jesus’s Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 6:1-16).
Some of the laborers worked all day, some for a few hours and some for the last hour.
“I’m just praying that the new people joining us in the vineyard represent the last of the workers, who will join us in reaping the harvest that all of us have been sowing for these 11 years,” she said.
Longtime 40 Days for Life participant Bonnie Lee called to mind that God’s presence in each person is stronger than anything in this world.
“We have no fear,” she called out in prayer. “We can be bold. We can be joyful because we have hope to share with men and women who come to this place and to other clinics in the state and in our nation.”
“You just ask us to be obedient,” she prayed, “and always to remember that You go before us into battle and that You are our victor.”
Mrs. Forck led everyone in asking God to change the hearts of people who perform abortions and earn their living in the abortion industry.
“Lord, have mercy on them and ease their pain,” she prayed. “Give them eyes to see and ears to hear the words that You have put in the mouths of those who witness to them.”
Longtime 40 Days participant Deacon Tom Whalen of St. Peter Parish in Jefferson City offered a prayer of thanksgiving to God for all He has accomplished and all He intends to accomplish through these 40 Days of Life.
“Please watch over each one of us and help us to continue to fight for life,” he prayed. “Help us to win this battle forever.”
Daily prayer vigils will continue through Nov. 1.
St. Andrew Parish and Knights of Columbus Council 8400 in Holts Summit will sponsor a closing rally and meal on Sunday, Nov. 14.
For information or to volunteer to take part in the daily vigils, contact Kathy Forck at (573) 821-5130, or visit: