In several countries, our campaign has begun to grow into a nationwide effort.
Many European countries only provide abortions in hospitals up to 12 weeks — there is no organisation like Planned Parenthood in many countries, facilitating abortions for financial reasons. Many countries have also experienced considerable secularisation in recent decades.
Nevertheless, we have seen a record number of 40 Days for Life campaigns in Europe this Lent — 50 in all — as more and more Christians have understood the spiritual importance of praying to end abortion.
In February I travelled to Croatia where abortions are performed in approximately 30 different locations in the country. Three years ago Zagreb launched their first ever campaign. Since then, the campaign has spread to 25 cities.
Prayer vigils are being organised in almost every location where abortion is happening in the country with 10,000 volunteers. We met the cardinal’s secretary during the visit and with the media about how God is using 40 Days for Life to save lives in the local community.
There are about 80 Croatian mission churches in Germany, from where two successful campaigns have started in Frankfurt and Munich. The Frankfurt campaign was highly impactful, saving a life from abortion and galvanising considerable media coverage and opposition. The vigil was well attended and many of the volunteers grew spiritually during their participation.
In Rome, the first 40 Days for Life was organised. There is not a strong tradition of prayer vigils outside hospitals from the pro-life movement in Italy to date, but Chiara Chessi, a student and founder of a local pro-life student association has started the first campaign there and hopes to build on her experience this campaign.
For the first time, there were 4 campaigns in Scotland, gaining considerable episcopal support. Archbishop Leo Cushley joined the prayer vigil in Edinburgh, and hundreds supported the candlelit prayer vigils in Glasgow and Edinburgh at the end of the campaign.
At the vigil sites, there were reports of powerful, grace-filled conversations and healing which gained considerable interest. Passers by shared their many stories with the vigil participants, particularly about how abortion had affected them in their lives.
There were another seven campaigns in England and Wales, with lives saved from abortion in Doncaster, Manchester, Birmingham and London. In Manchester, 14-year-old schoolgirls were about to attend the abortion centre, but after a discussion with the vigil participants decided not the enter the abortuary and after a discussion said, “We think you are doing the right thing.” A pregnant woman also changed her mind, telling the volunteer who had spoken with her, that the conversation “was just what I needed.”
In London, 17 women changed their minds and did not go ahead with an abortion after an appointment to see the abortion provider. Feminists continued to shout and organise protests at many vigils sites around the country, including Cardiff, Nottingham and London. In Birmingham, ambulances arrived at the abortion centre twice during the campaign to pick up women injured by an abortion experience.
In Spain, there were five vigils this campaign: Pamplona, Barcelona, El Puerto de Santa Maria, Malaga and Cadiz. There is huge potential for considerable growth in Spain in the coming years, given the pro-life sentiment in the country. In Barcelona, during an excellent campaign, a woman pregnant changed her mind at the vigil. During the ultrasound, she discovered that she was pregnant with twins.
In Cadiz, the vigil was on the boardwalk. Many of the participants of the vigil had abortions in the past. They prayed with a lot of intensity and wept much to see so many young people doing the same thing they had done themselves. The hearts of many people have been comforted, and others have been made aware of the horrors of abortion.
In Malaga, an excellent first time campaign was organised. They were attacked by the media and feminists, but there were a number of rescues (turnarounds) from experienced pavement counsellors. At one point the abortionist was very angry with their presence and thought of hiring a lawyer to attempt to rid his business of the prayerful presence outside.
In Romania, there was a total of six campaigns as 40 Days for Life began to spread around the country. In Iasi, there was a story of a life saved from abortion thanks to the vigil. A mother approached the volunteers and confessed that she was on her way to abort but seeing the tenacity with which they were defending life she decided to keep the baby!
In Baia Mare, volunteers at the vigil met a friend who thanked them profoundly. A woman was diagnosed with a complicated pregnancy and the doctors recommended abortion. The woman had chosen life and had given birth to a perfectly healthy baby. In Timisoara, the vigil attracted random acts of kindness from passersby outside the hospital.
In Bratislava, Slovakia, Martina Bednarikova has continued to organise a second 40 Days for Life campaign outside the hospital which continues to have a strong impact on healthcare professionals, while in Ljubljana, Slovenia, a good prayer vigil continues organised by Matjaz Venta. In Lisbon, volunteers counted 33 women going into the clinic in an hour and a half. One day a woman was extremely emotional after having an abortion.
Overall, there remain huge opportunities for the European growth of 40 Days for Life. The campaign is simple, easy to implement and is effective because it works. Many former communist Eastern European Countries have never organised a campaign. Many Western European countries have forgotten about the power of prayer. Where the campaign is being organised – wonderful results are being performed beyond the wildest imaginations of the organisers.