“Get a life!” a motorist yelled out the window of a passing vehicle.
“That’s exactly what we’re here for — life,” murmured Judy Bax, one of about 50 people who were gathered on the sidewalk outside Planned Parenthood’s former abortion clinic in Columbia.
A candlelight vigil at dusk capped off the opening rally for Columbia 40 Days for Life’s Fall 2021 campaign, which continues through Sunday, Oct. 31.
The theme is: “The God of peace will quickly crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you,” (Romans 16:20).
This 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 still given referrals there.
“So there’s still more praying to do,” said Kathy Forck, co-coordinator for Columbia 40 Days for Life.
“I know all of us wanted to see to it that abortion would end in our city, and God did that,” she said. “But praise be to God — you are committed enough to realize that just because abortions have stopped here, that doesn’t mean our job is over.
“God is still calling us to be faithful as He is successful, to trust in Him to finish this important work,” she said.
Some who pray on the sidewalk hold 40 Days for Life signs that tell women, “We will help you” and “Ask me about a free ultrasound.”
But the key role for the sidewalk prayer warriors is simply to pray while trained sidewalk counselors offer alternatives to women who may be seeking abortions.
Healing and freedom
“Our silence is the enemy’s greatest tool.”
Adriana Camp spoke openly to the rally’s participants about her “costliest decision of my life.”
It’s a story she’s shared on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court Building and at gatherings large and small.
She was 17 and pregnant. People she cared about convinced her to have an abortion.
She immediately regretted it but kept her tears to herself for 22 years.
Once while reading Scripture in early 2019, she paused on St. John the Baptist’s words about Jesus in John 3:30 — “He must increase; I must decrease.”
She was struck by what she read and silently prayed, “God, I want to decrease and have You increase.”
A few days later, a friend invited her to the Midwest March for Life in Jefferson City.
Mrs. Camp recoiled at first, but when the day arrived, she felt driven to attend the March, even though she had to go alone.
“I couldn’t image that they’d want someone like me in their march,” she declared.
While she was driving to the event, her eyes filled with tears and her heart with sadness.
Speakers that day gave testimony on the steps of the Capitol. A woman from an organization called “Surrender the Secret” told of her own abortion, and how she had suffered from years of deep remorse before giving herself over completely to God’s mercy.
Mrs. Camp spent all afternoon trying to find that speaker so she could ask her about how to heal from her own abortion.
God brought the two women together just as Mrs. Camp was preparing to leave.
Since then, Mrs. Camp has embraced God’s grace and healing and committed herself to sharing her story.
Her husband and adult sons and daughter joined her at the following year’s Midwest March for Life, through which she carried a sign, “I Regret My Abortion.”
“Healed women will tell her stories,” Mrs. Camp proclaimed to the people at the 40 Days for Life rally. “Their voices will potentially lead young women considering an abortion to make a better choice.”
“Healed women will be finally able to mourn the baby, which will by default give that baby personhood,” she stated. “Our babies will be more than just a mistake we want to forget.
“Simply put, we cannot let our pride and fear of being judged keep us from allowing God to use our broken places to help others,” she said.
“We must be willing to heal, because people need to see the wounds that have been healed in our lives, because they’re bleeding and they want to know that healing is possible.”
Also speaking at the rally was Polly Manring, a registered nurse and certified doula, who accompanies women through pregnancy, labor, childbirth and sometimes the days after birth.
She found out how important this work is when she helped a relative whose significant other abandoned her during the third trimester of pregnancy.
“Pregnancy and birth are very memorable,” Mrs. Manring observed. “But especially for those who are alone or in a compromised support system, it can be very scary and very overwhelming.”
Mrs. Manring has worked with a few clients at Faith Maternity Care in Fulton, which is a shelter for women who have chosen life for their preborn babies, despite having an unsafe home life.
“My vision is to be able to offer hope to women in difficult situations, whether they are pregnant in their teens or are a woman whose significant other has walked out on them, or who are maybe in a violent situation,” she said.
“Being pro-life is not just about babies,” she noted. “It’s also about these women carrying the baby, and how they can be supported, as well.”
In God’s hands
Praying a blessing over everyone present at the rally, Father Christopher Cordes, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Columbia, thanked God for their commitment to witnessing to the value and sacredness of human life.
“We ask You to continue to bless their efforts, to bless their faith, to bless all that they do,” he prayed.
Out on the sidewalk, Father Dylan Schrader, pastor of St. Brendan Parish in Mexico, asked God to give strength and wisdom to all who participate in 40 Days for Life.
“Give us the grace to trust in Your power,” he prayed. “Make us rely on You alone, the God through Whom all things were made, and give us a passion for the gift of life with which You have endowed us, and the Gospel of Life which is the foundation of our being.”
Death and rising
Mrs. Camp said the end goal for all pro-life efforts “is to one day be able to live in a country and a world where abortion is unthinkable.”
Echoing the words of Shawn Carney, founder of the international 40 Days for Life movement, she predicted that when abortion finally does come to an end, it will be because God made it so.
She called her own story of healing “a testimony of mercy and grace, the grace of God, and how He alone can take something horrible, something that brought shame and pain, and make it into something that can be used for His glory.”
The Closing Rally for 40 Days for Life will be at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 13 in Veit Hall of St. Andrew Church, 400 St. Andrews Drive in Holts Summit.
All who participated on the prayer vigils, from the sidewalk or from home, are invited.
For information or to sign up for an hour to pray outside Planned Parenthood, visit: