WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Janet Maclellan staged a solitary vigil across the street from Edmonton's abortion clinic.
Edmonton Pro-Life is hopeful that the milder spring-like weather will motivate more people to participate in this year's 40 Days for Life.
This year's peaceful, prayerful campaign goes from March 5 to April 13. Volunteers pray outside of the Women's Health Options (formerly known as the Morgentaler Clinic) at 12409-109A Ave. during the Lenten campaign.
So far, overall participation has been low with only four groups pledging to attend regularly.
A group of three to 10 people plans to go out every Wednesday morning during the campaign. Another small contingent participates on Friday afternoons. Others from St. Thomas More Parish and Camrose have also expressed an interest in volunteering. As well, one man goes alone from time to time.
The community is joining with hundreds of other cities for this spring's global 40 Days for Life, a worldwide movement to protect mothers and babies.
The key elements of 40 Days for Life are prayer and fasting, peaceful vigil and community outreach.
"I don't like what's happening over there. I don't like that they're killing up to 30 babies a day," said Janet Maclellan, a parishioner at St. Andrew's Catholic Parish.
While some cities strive for volunteers to be outside of abortion clinics around the clock, Edmonton does not have enough volunteers. Even its goal of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily coverage has been unattainable.
People are also asked to pray and fast for the mothers and the unborn. They are asked to fast from whatever it is that separates them from God, be it certain foods, television, apathy or indifference.
The volunteers are not allowed to interact with the women entering or exiting the clinic.
Maclellan reminds women that they are not alone in their struggle. The volunteers are there to help women coping with an unplanned pregnancy.
As well, directly across the street from Women's Health Options, the Back Porch is an 11th hour ministry for both women and men. Staffed by volunteers, the Back Porch provides information about abortion, adoption, parenting and referrals appropriate for their individual situations.
Edmonton Pro-Life has launched a new advocacy training program. It is for volunteers interested in learning more about how to engage people in pro-life discussions, and about early intervention. Training sessions will be offered quarterly in Edmonton.
"It's not pregnancy counselling, but rather that immediate, on-the-street question: How can I get you to pause for a moment and hear what I have to say?" said Karen Richert, Edmonton Pro-Life's office manager.
Richert said volunteers in the pro-life movement can oftentimes be so passionate about the cause that they approach people too strongly or in other ways that turn them off.
"The training equips them a little better. How do we approach someone going in for an abortion?"
She cautions that volunteers must be mindful of the legal restrictions imposed upon them. But at times the women or family members will approach them.
"We have the power of prayer, but we also know that it's prayer and good works that go together," said Richert.
The opportunity to speak with women before they go in for an abortion is not always there.
But sometimes opportunity knocks. Last year, Richert was thanked by a pregnant woman who stumbled on the Back Porch in search of information. After listening to the volunteers, she cancelled her appointment at Women's Health Options.
"It doesn't happen as often as we'd like it to happen – but it does happen. We need to remember that these are whole women going in, and broken women coming out," said Richert.
"If we're not there to minister to them, where are they going to turn?"
For details on how to get involved, call Edmonton Pro-Life at 780-425-1637.