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May 6, 2010 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Three women stand on the sidewalk in front of the Planned Parenthood clinic at 711 N. Providence Road. They try not to step on the grass because it’s part of “their” property. Signs standing on the sidewalk read: “Pray to end abortion.” A chair sits next to a stack of pamphlets, books and magazines that the women are offering to clients entering the clinic. Holding rosaries and silently saying a prayer, the volunteers walk slowly up and down the sidewalk.
One of these women is Kathy Forck, a volunteer for 40 Days for Life. The organization holds peaceful prayer vigils in front of the clinic every Thursday, the day when abortions are done, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
“We are praying, not protesting,” Forck says. “We seek the conversion of moms, dads and all those involved in abortion.” Kathy and her husband, Mike, volunteer for the organization as campaign co-directors. Forck says the vigil is interdenominational and is open to all faiths.
Members of 40 Days and employees of Planned Parenthood do not interact with one another. “We pray that they will convert their hearts, but there is a definite line that we don’t cross,” Forck says.
The number of clients seeking abortions is diminishing, according to Forck. She estimates that when they began the clinic was seeing 15 to 20 abortion clients, and now she says the number has gone down to between 6 and 12 clients.
The people she sees frequenting the clinic on Thursdays are normally young adults, but not always. Forck guesses that out of a group of 10 clients, two are teens, six young, college age adults and two older couples.
Michelle Trupiano from the public affairs department of Planned Parenthood in Columbia says that there is not a defining demographic: “There is no average profile of our clients. Every case has its own unique circumstances, and each client is in a different situation.”
The main goal of Planned Parenthood, according to its Web site, is to “establish public policy which protects and increases access to family planning services, abortion and sexual education.” The organization also aims to prevent unintended pregnancies through education programs, increase women’s access to health care and spread protection awareness to reduce the number of sexually transmitted diseases.
Even though the members of 40 Days see their efforts as effective, Trupiano says no one should face harassment when looking for legal health care assistance. “Planned Parenthood will be there to serve their clients, and we won’t let them stop us,” she says.
40 Days holds rallies in the hopes of changing people’s attitudes toward abortion. When rallies or planned events aren’t happening, they still stand with their rosaries and signs in front of Planned Parenthood every Thursday.
Tom Whalen, an ordained deacon at St. Peter’s Church in Jefferson City and 40 Days member, holds a rosary as he stands in the rain in front of the clinic. “I decided to support 40 Days for Life because I felt God was calling me and wanted people to be with us,” he says. “Hopefully through our prayers we will prevent some of the babies from being aborted.”
Before becoming a deacon, Whalen was a pharmacist. One of his main concerns with the practice is the health risks associated with abortion pills. “Many women that go into the abortion clinic are not told of the many options that are available to them,” he says. “We want to let them know that the abortion pill they are given is very dangerous and can cause a lot of problems.”
For Whalen, the abortion issue goes beyond Planned Parenthood in Missouri. “We keep hoping and praying for their conversion,” he says. “The preamble of the Constitution says that ‘all men are created equal’ and are guaranteed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Well, life includes unborn babies.”
40 Days volunteers will continue to pray on Thursdays, silently and peacefully. “We are not violent people; we do not approve violence,” he says. “We can only win the battle of life with love.”