DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - In a case of life imitating art, candlelight vigils — inspired by the film Unplanned — will be held in multiple locations nationwide in conjunction with the Annual Day of Prayer Against Planned Parenthood.
On April 13, thousands of people across the United States are expected to participate in the fourth annual Day of Prayer and Protest Against Planned Parenthood. Over 140 locations of candlelight vigils are planned in 37 states.
Church Militant spoke with event coordinators Monica Miller, executive director of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, and Eric Scheidler, executive director of Pro-Life Action League.
Miller said the usual day of the rally is the third Saturday in April, but they moved the rally to April 13 to avoid conflicting with the Easter Tridium and to coincide with the theater release of Unplanned.
Organized by #ProtestPP, a joint project of the Pro-Life Action League, Created Equal, Citizens for a Pro-Life Society and a coalition of more than 75 local, state and national pro-life groups, they were inspired to organize #ProtestPP in 2015 in response "to the horrifying revelations ... that Planned Parenthood has been involved in the illicit trafficking of aborted babies' body parts."
"We needed to give something concrete to do in the public square," Scheidler explained.
"Unplanned has become a call to action for the pro-life movement," said Mark Harrington, executive director of Created Equal. "Thousands have been inspired by this movie to get actively involved in the pro-life movement for the first time. Saturday's Nationwide Candlelight Vigil will be the critical first step for many of these new pro-life activists — including a new group of first-time leaders."
In July 2015, the Center for Medical Progress released a series of undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood directors discussing how to profit off the sale of the babies' body parts. Since then, Planned Parenthood has sued and sought criminal charges against David Daleiden and the undercover investigation, and they attempted to debunk the videos by claiming they were "heavily edited" or "doctored."
In January, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Planned Parenthood and allowed the state of Texas to strip their taxpayer subsidies. They found that "Planned Parenthood uses criminal partial-birth abortions to sell baby parts."
This year marks the first time 40 Days for Life, the pro-life group featured in Unplanned, joined with #ProtestPP. Scheidler noted they changed from a protest to a prayer event because the season of Lent is a prayerful time and because many first-time pro-life advocates are more comfortable with prayer events.
Scheidler explained that in 2015, they had between 20,000 and 30,000 people protesting Planned Parenthood and these protests were instrumental in influencing Trump to remove the Title X rules and strip Planned Parenthood of tens of millions of dollars in federal funding that can now go to more comprehensive family health care.
Another benefit of the rallies is the unseen effect it has on converting hearts. In Unplanned, Abby Johnson admits to pro-lifers that the number of women who cancel or not show up for their abortion skyrockets. She maintains "it's a dirty little secret" Planned Parenthood tries to keep the pro-lifers from finding out.
This was proven in a Red Rose Rescue that Miller participated in. After a Red Rose Rescue in West Bloomfield, Michigan, the prosecutor, Larry Sherman, attempted to collect restitution from Miller and the other four rescuers for the lost revenue of the abortionist.
During the hearing in July 2018, the clinic director swore, under oath, that 12 out of 23 of their scheduled patients did not show up. Miller said, "We aren't privy to how many appointments are scheduled" and have to depend on the abortion providers for honest information. She has heard other cancellation figures ranging from 20% to 70%.
Both Miller and Scheidler agreed that pro-lifers do not often know the effect they have but both shared anecdotal stories from the "front lines."
Miller explained that very often, while the pro-lifers are in front of an abortion mill, women with young children will stop by and encourage them. In one instance, a woman pulled over with a 2-year-old child in her car and thanked the pro-lifers, saying, "My child is alive because somebody like you was outside of this clinic two years ago."
Scheidler related a story where a woman stopped to thank pro-lifers in front of an abortion mill for their presence years ago. She has a 15-year-old son because pro-lifers were present outside the abortion mill she was scheduled to go to.
"It took 15 years to learn they saved a life," he said.
Miller also said that women they help often become avidly pro-life.
"They're floored when they see how much help we give them," she said. They are often given financial, moral and spiritual help, and "it makes a big difference in their lives," she continued.
Scheidler added that what is different this year is both a spike in the number of inquiries about vigil locations and the number of first-time organizers.
"They have a tremendous impact," he said. "These are folks who will continue to be involved for years to come."
Scheidler said what can never be forgotten is, "We are there for the babies who die, giving them the only gift they'll ever receive from a person this side of eternity."
Locations for the candlelight vigils can be found here.