A few years ago at a 40 Days for Life prayer vigil in Madison, Wisconsin, Steve Karlen met a man passing by the abortion clinic who stopped when he noticed the group praying outside of it.
Curiously enough, the man began taking photos of families at the vigil. Karlen came to realize the man’s daughter was pregnant with a boy who had Down Syndrome, and she and her husband planned to abort the baby.
The man was taking photos of families who offered to adopt the child. He showed the photos to his daughter, and she and her husband ultimately chose life for their son.
The man who happened to pass by has now put in more than 200 hours praying at that same vigil.
“To me, that’s about as good as it gets,” said Karlen. “We talk about saving babies and, by the Grace of God, that’s exactly what we do.”
Karlen is the Campaign Director for 40 Days for Life, a campaign that encourages people to fast and pray for an end to abortion.
This fall, the campaign ran from Sept. 26 until Nov. 4 in 415 cities throughout the world. The success stories that came out of it were abundant.
“We’ve got former abortion workers who have reported that when there’s people out there praying in front of an abortion facility, the no-show rates for those abortion appointments can go up to as high as 75 percent,” said Karlen.
“Any given hour, you might not see anything happen, but the Lord tells us, ‘Blessed are those who have not seen but believed.’ When they hear some of those numbers from the abortion industry itself, it’s a great encouragement,” he said.
Karlen believes that along with the signs held by those who participate in vigils, prayer is a major force in the success of the 40 Days campaign.
“I think prayer is the engine that drives everything,” he said. “It gives energy and it gives life and it gives momentum to all of the other stuff — the community outreach, the signs, the witness, all of those things.”
Here in Denver, more than 350 people kicked off 40 Days with a Eucharistic procession, and hundreds of others have participated in Mass and prayer vigils in the parking lot across from Denver’s Planned Parenthood.
The Respect Life Office reports that they know of at least three babies saved during this campaign.
For Lynn Grandon, Program Director for the Respect Life Office, 40 Days brings great hope for the future of these babies and those they will encounter as they grow up.
“Each of us has gifts and talents given to us by our ancestors that God uses at precise moments in the time he chooses to place us here,” she said.
“Some day, in some way, these children will be surprised to learn that they were slated to die in 2018 but were spared. Just that knowledge alone can be a tremendous impetus to find their life purpose and make a difference with their lives.”
Grandon is grateful for the faithful in Colorado who participated in 40 Days for Life despite the angry retorts from counter-protesters.
“We love seeing the fervency of those who are praying and participating in the power of the Holy Masses that are offered right at the entrance of such a place of loss,” she said.
Karlen explained that a reason why many women who show up for an abortion appointment but decide to leave is because they are not fully convinced what they’re doing is the right choice.
“They know there’s something not quite right about it,” he said. “They’re not there because they’re pro-choice. The feel that they have no choice and they’re looking for some way out, and they’re praying for God to give them a sign.
“And they show up, and they meet somebody there praying for them, smiling, holding a sign, being there in their hour of need,” he continued. “And that’s the sign they were looking for.”
Karlen is grateful for those here in Colorado who participated in 40 Days vigils and offered prayers for women considering abortion.
“It’s heroic,” he said. “We just learned of the 15,000th saved baby through the prayers of 40 Days for Life volunteers. Those are just the ones that we can count.”
The campaign knows of nearly 200 abortion workers who have quit their jobs and become pro-life, and 99 abortion facilities have closed and gone out of business following a 40 Days campaign.
“It goes to show the power of prayer,” said Karlen, “which is the primary form of activism.”