Near the conclusion of last fall's campaign in Lubbock, Texas, the city's only abortion clinic -- Planned Parenthood -- shut down a business that had taken the lives of more than 30,000 unborn babies, according to the 40 Days for Life national staff. The facility had not only been a site of 40 Days prayer vigils, but reportedly could not meet the state's new abortion clinic regulations.
As the local campaign director, Haga "had the honor of sending the email that announced the closing of Planned Parenthood Lubbock for good, which was by far the most rewarding experience I have ever had while being involved with 40 Days for Life," the Texas Tech University student told Baptist Press in an email interview.
When Planned Parenthood Lubbock, an affiliate of the country's largest abortion provider, stopped performing the lethal procedures, Haga recalled, "I spent that Friday afternoon emailing everybody that I could think of to share the good news, including the national team" of 40 Days.
As a result, there is no need for a prayer vigil outside an abortion facility in Lubbock when 40 Days launches its next campaign March 5.
During the campaign, tens of thousands of volunteers will gather outside abortion clinics in 251 cities spread across 11 countries, hoping for an outcome similar to the one the 40 Days team in Lubbock witnessed. The campaign, which concludes April 13, will be held not only throughout the United States but in cities in Australia, Canada, Croatia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, England, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, Spain and Wales.
The around-the-clock prayer vigils outside abortion facilities that are at the heart of the semi-annual campaigns have provided a significant boost to the pro-life movement since the effort went national in 2007. In the ensuing six years, 40 Days -- which also consists of community outreach, prayer and fasting to end abortion -- has reported the following.
-- More than 8,200 unborn children have been spared from abortion.
-- 44 abortion facilities have closed, and 88 clinic workers have left their jobs.
-- About 600,000 people representing some 16,500 churches have participated in 522 cities across all 50 states and 20 other countries.
Haga, 24, became one of those participants four years ago when, in spite of her age, "knew it was time to stop stalling and jump head first towards something I knew God was calling me to." She served as the 40 Days director for the final four campaigns outside Lubbock's Planned Parenthood facility.
The "biggest motivation" for her pro-life work is her mother, Haga said.
"She found herself in a crisis pregnancy at the age of 16 and chose life after visiting Planned Parenthood and considering abortion," Haga told BP. "She had me the beginning of her senior year in high school. Every time I find myself out on the sidewalks counseling, I see my mom in those scared and lonely girls. I thank God that someone was there to show her Christ's love and know that I was given the opportunity to do the same."
On its website, the 40 Days national staff encourages participants during each campaign to pray not only for women considering abortion and the unborn children whose lives are threatened but, among other requests, for post-abortion women and men, and abortion center workers.
Haga and the other participants in 40 Days have always been from a diversity of religious, ethnic and age groups, but "noticeable growth" came in three areas in the fall 2013 campaign, said 40 Days National Director David Bereit. These areas, he said, were "youth and young adults, Protestant and evangelical Christians, and minorities -- most notably a dramatic increase in Hispanic participation."
A Roman Catholic, Haga is part of the largest religious group of 40 Days participants. Catholics make up an estimated 65 to 70 percent of volunteers, while Baptists constitute the second largest religious affiliation and continue to increase, Bereit said.
The most recent 40 Days international campaign was marked by continued growth demonstrated in new locations and greater numbers of participants at repeat locations, Bereit told BP in an email interview.
The fall 2013 campaign appeared to reflect "a growing sense of hope and optimism as record numbers of abortion centers are closing, as more workers are converting and going public and as more local and state pro-life laws are enacted," Bereit said.
"In addition to the reports of lives saved, more abortion workers experiencing changes of heart, record numbers of abortion centers closing, I was most encouraged by the reports and photos of children participating in this 40 Days for Life campaign who were saved from abortion during previous 40 Days for Life campaigns -- some of them are now several years old."
Along with the hopeful signs, the foremost discouragement reported to the national 40 Days staff, Bereit wrote, was volunteers asking: "Where is the rest of the church of Jesus Christ?"
There remains "enormous opportunity for greater Christian participation in pro-life efforts," he said.
The locations for the next 40 Days campaign may be accessed at http://www.40daysforlife.com/location.html.
Tom Strode is Baptist Press' Washington bureau chief. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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