Nashville 40 Days for Life emphasizes peaceful, prayerful approach to pro-life movement

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Roy Silveira holds up a “Love Them Both” sign during the opening rally of the Nashville 40 Days for Life Campaign. Tennessee Register file photo by Katie Peterson

The path to ending abortion is through peaceful prayer rather than harsh confrontation, said current and former leaders of pro-life prayer campaigns in Nashville.

Their efforts stand in contrast to allegations made in the recent indictment by a federal grand jury of 11 people on charges of obstructing a clinic that provides abortions outside Nashville.

The indictments allege the 11 defendants violated federal law by using physical obstruction to intimidate and interfere with the employees of the carafem Health Center clinic in Mt. Juliet and a patient seeking reproductive health services at the clinic in March 2022. The incident allegedly occurred several months before the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case on June 24, overturning the 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion across the country.

After the Dobbs ruling was announced, there were press reports of other incidents at carafem and the Planned Parenthood clinic in Nashville of protestors accosting vehicles in parking lots, threatening employees, and more. 

Jeff Coleman, a former leader of the 40 Days for Life prayer campaign in Nashville to end abortion, said the indictments and other events have not and will not affect 40 Days for Life peaceful vigils.

“We at 40 Days have always been a peaceful, prayerful vigil. We do not allow anyone in our group to harass or intimidate anyone who is seeking an abortion,” Coleman said. “We understand the importance of being there for these women who have found themselves in a very bad situation and give them every opportunity they need to save themselves and their children.

“The pro-life movement is made of people whose passion can overtake them, and they feel the need to do more than just pray,” he added. “The media will always use these types of situations to demonize the pro-life movement, and a few passionate people shouldn’t taint the whole movement.”

The 40 Days for Life organization requires participants to act peacefully, said Courtney Hayden, who led the fall 2021 and spring 2022 40 Days for Life campaigns in Nashville.

“There are so many different groups fighting for an end to abortion. However, we are grateful for the rules and guidelines that 40 Days for Life has for its participants across the globe,” Hayden said. “Signing their ‘statement of peace form’ ensures that we will be peaceful, prayerful, and obedient to the rules that 40 Days has set forth for the safety of their participants and everyone around.

“Fasting is another major component to 40 Days, and that’s where we draw our strength. Abortion is a scary thing, for those getting one and for those praying on evil’s territory, so this peaceful and loving approach is so needed in these dark times,” she added. “Forty Days for Life will continue in Nashville until there are zero abortion facilities in the city.”

Marilyn Cox, who is the leader of the current campaign, which will continue through Nov. 6, said the recent Jericho March on Saturday, Oct. 15, with 55 participants of all ages, was proof of the power of a peaceful, prayerful approach.

“Because prayer is our focus, God’s will was done as we walked seven times in silent prayer around the block of Planned Parenthood,” Cox said. “No matter what the chaos and noise is in our culture of death, we who follow Jesus must stand firm proclaiming the truth. St. John Paul II always advised us: ‘Be Not Afraid.’

“We welcome church groups to come out to pray together. Even though Planned Parenthood isn’t performing surgical abortions right now, they are aiding women to travel to states that provide abortions,” she continued. 

“We will provide women information and help them to get a free ultrasound and guidance from Muliere Care, the most loving and helpful mobile pregnancy care center in our city,” Cox said. “They provide assistance for women who have minimal support networks and are facing crisis or unplanned pregnancies.”

The 40 Days for Life Fall Campaign kicked off with an evening Mass held jointly with students from University Catholic campus ministry. Volunteers signed up to pray outside the Planned Parenthood clinic on Dr. D.B. Todd Jr. Boulevard between 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday beginning Sept. 28. Other special events included the Jericho March, and the group will end the campaign with the praying of the rosary and Mass beginning at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, at St. Mary of the Seven Sorrows Church in downtown Nashville.

In the meantime, volunteers are still welcome to sign up for prayer hours, Cox said.

“Because of the blessed news of the overturning of Roe v. Wade sending decisions back to the individual states, Tennessee is pro-life and pro-family. So our 40 Days for Life was more subdued in numbers on the sidewalk as we have been praying in thanksgiving to our Lord for his great mercy,” Cox said. “We pray that our state will continue to be pro-life. 

“While the number of participants has diminished this fall because of the news, there are more than 350 followers on the 40 Days for Life Facebook page, so people are definitely praying together,” Cox said.

For more information or to sign up to pray, visit Cox is encouraging anyone interested to come and pray as well as “bring your guardian angel and a friend.”  

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