Yesterday marked the beginning of the religious anti-abortion movement’s 40 Days for Life campaign. Anti-abortion protesters will engage in what they call “prayer, fasting, silent vigil, and community outreach” outside of over 316 clinics over this forty-day period. On its website, 40 Days for Life quantifies the number of “babies saved” and clinics closed during (and apparently, as a result of) 40 Days for Life. Creepy, I know.
I don’t think I need to tell you why 40 Days for Life, from its name to its practices, is absurd. Jess Mary Aloe has already written a great piece about the hypocrisy of the “pro-life” movement. At the clinic where I volunteer, the protestor’s propaganda and literature reveals that not only do they believe that abortion is murder, they also believe that all contraception is murder. They don’t want to prevent unwanted pregnancies and reduce the number of abortions. They just don’t want anyone to have sex unless they plan on reproducing. The message from these groups is clear. They are not pro-life. They are anti-sex and anti-women.
40 Days for Life conveniently ends just before Election Day in the United States, the country where most of the campaign’s organized protests will be taking place. For a campaign that lauds the power of silent prayer, it sure is strategic in the worldly area of politics. If prayer can end abortion, then why do Republicans need to write fetal personhood into their party’s platform? If fasting and silent vigil can end abortion, then why do you have to scream at and harass women who have already made the decision to have an abortion?
Anti-abortion protestors claim that they protest because they care about women and because they want to help “unborn babies”. Yet they intimidate and harass women with baby clothes, distorted photographs of aborted fetuses, and screams of “Mommy, don’t kill me”. These are women who have already made a decision about their life and their body, and to assume that they haven’t thought about this decision or considered its alternatives is paternalistic. It reveals the anti-abortion movement for what it really is—not pro-life, but against sexuality and against liberated women.
If you disagree with 40 Days of Life’s harassment campaign, there are a few things you can do to help keep abortion safe, legal, and accessible:
1. Volunteer as a clinic escort
Many clinics have a group of volunteers known as escorts who makes sure that anyone who wishes to enter the clinic may do so without barriers. Escorts are not counter-protesters; they do not engage with the anti-abortion protesters unless they are directly blocking someone’s access to the clinic. Escorts are there to make sure that patients feel safe walking past the hostile environment of protests that often occur outside of clinics. Call you local clinic and ask them if they need escorts. If they already have volunteer escorts, they will likely put you in contact with a volunteer coordinator. If they do not currently have escorts, you can ask if that is something the clinic might benefit from and start the clinic escort program near you.
2. Volunteer for Planned Parenthood or your local pro-choice organization
Especially because 40 Days for Life is happening so close to the Presidential Election, many clinics use their volunteers for phone banking campaigns and political canvassing this time of year to let people know about important local elections that may affect reproductive health services.
3. Donate to an abortion fund
Many states cannot use Medicaid to cover the cost of abortions because of something called the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funds from going to abortions. This leaves many young and low-income women without options to cover the costs of an abortion. You can make donations to these funds to help make abortion affordable and accessible to anybody who needs it. Visit The National Network of Abortion Funds to find a local abortion funding group.
What do you think of the 40 Days for Life movement? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Written by Brenna McCaffrey