By Christine M. Williams, Anchor Correspondent
ATTLEBORO, Mass. — This fall, more people have pledged to stand vigil in front of the Attleboro abortion clinic than ever before. The 11th 40 Days for Life campaign outside the Four Women Health Services begins September 24, but the prayerful presence has increased all year long.
“We hope that 40 Days for Life may have played some small part in this accomplishment, and we look forward to welcoming more new participants to join,” said Darleen Howard, one of the campaign’s coordinators.
The kickoff event will take place on September 27 with an ecumenical prayer service at the vigil site at 8 a.m. and a Mass at St. Vincent de Paul Church at 9 a.m.
Howard added that all the Pro-Lifers who come to Angell Park, a narrow strip of grass between divided Highway 118, seek to save the lives of children and prevent their parents from making decisions they will regret forever. The site attracts like-minded people who come to pray for “the conversion of the hearts of the clinic staff and those of the mothers and fathers.”
Howard, chairman of the Abundant Hope board, said that she hopes more parents will be referred to the pregnancy resource center — located less than half a mile from the abortion clinic.
“Abundant Hope offers pregnancy tests, options counseling, adoption referrals, community service referrals, maternity and baby clothing, diapers, wipes, formula and baby food all free of charge,” she said.
Howard encouraged support of the center through its annual fund-raising dinner, which will be held at Lake Pearl Luciano’s in Wrentham on October 2 from 6:30-9 p.m.
In an email to vigil participants, the Attleboro 40 Days for Life coordinators said that participation by youth has also increased — during the campaign and at other times of the year. Another Pro-Life Boot Camp, organized by the diocese, was held at the site on a Saturday morning this summer. More than 30 young adults attended.
The coordinators called the event “a most powerful display of Christian charity.”
“These young men and women are powerful evangelizers of the Pro-Life message amongst their peer group and beyond. God bless the youth!” they said in the email.
Ron Larose, 40 Days Attleboro coordinator, noted that a second change this campaign will be where vigilers are legally allowed to stand.
In June, the United States Supreme Court struck down the 35-foot buffer zone outside Massachusetts abortion clinics. Under that law, the nearest place for Attleboro vigilers to stand was across the street in Angell Park. The clinic, located far from the road, has a private parking lot. As soon as the law was overturned, some Pro-Lifers have been standing just outside the driveway.
Since the space next to the clinic’s driveway is small, coordinators are encouraging the majority of vigilers to stay at the park across the street. An added benefit is that the group is more visible to traffic moving in both directions there, Larose said.
The new buffer zone law, passed in July, allows a single police officer the discretion to require anyone “substantially impeding” access to the clinic to stand back 25 feet for a period of eight hours.
Larose said that in the history of 40 Days Attleboro, there has never been a conflict with the police.
“It’s all pretty quiet,” he said. “If law enforcement does come, everybody’s respectful of their requests, and we keep everything calm and peaceful.”
Larose added that 40 Days has an established code of conduct that puts town officials at ease.
This fall’s campaign will continue through November 2. Coordinators encourage groups and individuals to participate.
Anyone who would like to get involved can invite others, put up fliers advertising the campaign and sign up for a prayer time on the Attleboro vigil’s calendar at www.40daysforlife.com/attleboro.
Tickets for the Abundant Hope fund-raising dinner and silent auction may be purchased by calling 508-455-0425.