If you have not heard of 40 Days for Life, it is a global movement where people fast and pray outside of abortion clinics around the world.
Whilst outside of the clinic, tangible help is also offered to women, men and families through different support agencies.
Due to these prayer vigils across the world, thousands of lives have been saved, clinic workers have left their jobs and abortion clinics have been closed down permanently.
So how did I personally get into this ministry? Quite simply, I saw other people doing it. People who were putting their faith and convictions into action.
Little did I know that a few years later I would meet and work with these people and be leading a 40 Days for Life prayer vigil outside of the same clinic.
Since we started 40 Days for Life prayer vigils in Perth in 2011, we know of at least 37 children who are alive today because parents changed their minds right at death?s door. This is over a full classroom of children and we are only there for 40 days out of 365! Imagine if we were there every day?
I want to start with a sad story. I remember meeting a young woman who was there with a friend. They ended up talking with us for some time. Sadly, I wasn?t able to fully explain the help that we could offer as the ?abortion process? had already been started.
The girls told us that they had been given incorrect information about us. They were told that we would show them gruesome pictures, abuse them and tell them they were going to hell.
Is it any wonder that some people judge us? Is it any wonder they don?t know we exist to help women and children?
When this woman was called into the clinic for her abortion she took some of our brochures and handed them to the staff and said, ?They?re just trying to help people!? When the woman came out in tears after the abortion, she took more brochures to give to her friends.
While we mourned for the mother and her baby, we were grateful for the opportunity to pray for her and share the truth with her. A seed was sown in her life that day.
One sign we used reads, ?Your Baby Needs a Hero,? which is obviously aimed at men. After reading this sign, two men went in to retrieve their wives.
One of the men came over to us and said, ?We have decided to keep our baby?we just wanted to come over and thank you for being here.?
On another occasion a couple came out of the clinic after previously accepting one of our brochures. The mother said, ?I?ve decided to keep my baby. Can I have a hug?? The father then asked, ?Can I have a medal? Obviously he was referring to our sign, ?Your Baby Needs a Hero,? and he thought heroes deserved medals. He will receive his reward?a baby in his arms?later this year!
Another couple went into the clinic after speaking to one of our volunteers, came out some time later, and exclaimed that they had changed their minds and were keeping their baby. The father had cash in his hand from the refund and offered some of it for our cause. We politely declined.
On another occasion, a young woman who went into the clinic observed a man on his knees praying alone next to a sign with a help number on it. As she was waiting in the waiting room, she felt a sense of overwhelming love for her child and left the clinic. She did not speak to the man, but recalled the phone number and turned up at the Pregnancy Resource Centre two weeks later and found sanctuary for herself and her baby!
And now I want to share with you just a bit about an early experience of mine. In 1994, when I was 20 years old I lost my daughter Angel Lee at 22 weeks? gestation due to immense stress caused by domestic violence and alcoholism on the part ofher father. I gave birth to Angel who died moments later and couldn?t be resuscitated.
Even when I was in labour, I thought I was going to give birth to something that was half blob, half human. Yet, she was fully developed, had the features of both of her parents and was just the length of my forearm. After spending this time with her, I understood then, the full humanity of an unborn child in the womb.
I also understand what it?s like to go home with an empty womb.
Fast forward many years later and I am standing in front of an abortion clinic, involved in prayer vigils, and I meet a pregnant mum going into the clinic for an abortion.
We had so much in common! It was incredible and I felt like I was speaking to a younger version of myself.
I was able to share my story with her and explain the ways in which we could give her free help and support. She began to cry and then laughed and gave me a huge hug. I asked, ?Do you want to get out of here?, to which she replied, ?Yep, let?s do it.? So I drove her home.
We exchanged contact details and she took up the free help offered to her from a local Pregnancy Resource Centre throughout her pregnancy and beyond.
I was given the privilege of going to the hospital and holding her baby. I?m not sure if I can adequately describe this feeling. To know how close this child was to death and now to be holding and kissing this baby. It was like waiting for my own child to be born! This child will be treasured and loved forever!
May I ask you, ?Who is going to offer sanctuary for these mothers and their babies if we don?t??
Across the road from the clinic, people are pampering themselves at the shopping centre, getting their nails done, eating food, buying clothes and watching movies, while babies in the womb up to 19 weeks and 6 days are being dismembered and then transported across town for incineration.
These little bodies are classed as ?Controlled Waste?. They are treated with the same regard as noxious waste, sewage and animal effluent, and we?ve just read in the papers recently that this government gives millions of dollars annually to fund this abomination!
I want to speak to the young people here for a moment. You need to be ready and available to have the pro-life baton passed on to you. There are people in their 80?s who have been doing this work for decades.
When preparing for 40 Days for Life and looking for volunteers, I noted that some of these faithful people were unable to join in. A wife was having a hip replacement, a husband died of cancer, and one of my shift marshalls has cancer. This is the final season of their lives, a time when they are entitled to rest, and yet they continue to stand on the front lines.
Young people, it is time for you to put your convictions into action. It is easy forsociety to form the impression that these old judgemental fuddy-duddies are not up with the times and they wouldn?t have a clue about young people these days. I know if I saw young people quietly praying outside of an abortion clinic, it would resonate with me and with many people. Young people, you can bring about change! Please think about whatever skills and gifts you have and work hard to turn around this culture.
Finally, I would like to thank each of you for your prayers, and especially thank those who have joined our prayer vigils and offered help to young women at abortion clinics. This is where lives are being saved by ordinary people with a love for women and children.
Joanne Cicchini was the vigil coordinator for the most recent 40 Days for Life campaign in Perth, Australia. These comments were made at the Rally for Life outside Parliament House in Perth. The event marked the 18th anniversary of the legalization of abortion in the state of Western Australia.