The first campaign began with a pro-life group trying to prevent an abortion clinic from opening in Texas in 2004. Over the span of three years, 40 Days for Life changed to a national campaign and spread to other countries.
Since its inception, 40 Days has received reports of 4,313 unborn lives saved from abortion as a result of its campaigns, which focus on peaceful prayer vigils outside clinics. In addition, 53 abortion clinic workers reportedly have quit and 14 abortion centers have closed down following outreaches at clinics. Participants from more than 13,000 church congregations have been involved, with more than 400,000 volunteers taking part in the campaigns.
In the new campaign, there will be participants at 301 locations, an increase of about four dozen over last spring's outreach, according to the 40 Days for Life website. These include sites in Canada, England, Spain, Australia, Argentina and Germany.
The growth of 40 Days as a biannual campaign has presented a challenge for national director David Bereit. In the past, he would go to many of the vigils and interact with those praying outside clinics.
"There has been unbelievable growth ... we can't be with as many people. It is beautiful to see the Holy Spirit where we cannot go," Bereit told Baptist Press.
As a community effort, 40 Days for Life uses three components in its campaigns, Bereit said. Participants 1) pray and fast to end abortion, 2) participate in vigils and 3) have grassroots community outreach.
"We provide daily devotionals for prayer," he said. "For fasting, we leave it up to them, because it is a very personal thing."
The effort follows a pattern of biblical history in which God used 40-day periods to teach His people to recognize His power and trust in Him, 40 Days for Life officials say.
Bereit connected the campaign with the wandering of the Israelites in the desert for 40 years before being led into the Promised Land.
The 40th anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion is less than 18 months away. Bereit hopes "abortion will be nearing its end."
Despite the deeply ingrained nature of abortion in American society, he believes God can bring change soon.
"My ultimate hope is to see abortion ended through the faithfulness of God's people," Bereit said.
This fall's campaign will conclude Nov. 6.
Jennifer Hatcher, a senior at California Baptist University in Riverside, Calif., is attending the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities' Washington Journalism Center this semester and serving as an intern with Baptist Press.
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