More Than 227 Babies Saved

An Interview With 40 Days for Life Co-Founder, Shawn Carney

By Traci Osuna

FREDRICKSBURG, Maryland, APRIL 1, 2011 ( In the fall of 2004, Shawn Carney, his wife, Marilisa, and friend, David Bereit, felt a need to make a positive impact on a local abortion clinic in their community of College Station, Texas. After praying for an hour, the answer came to them: Begin a peaceful around-the-clock prayer vigil outside the Planned Parenthood Clinic that would last for 40 days.

Since that very first 40 Days for Life that took place nearly seven years ago, the campaign has gone international. This Ash Wednesday, the pro-life campaign got under way in a record setting 245 cities around the world and already, as of Day 24 of the 2011 Lenten campaign, 227 babies have been saved.

ZENIT: 40 Days for Life has become a worldwide event, with all 50 states hosting vigils, as well as organized events in Canada, England, Ireland, Spain, Argentina and Australia. Why do you think it has spread so rapidly and had such an impact on society?

Carney: Both David and I thought there would be a hunger on the grassroots level to do something to help end abortion where they actually happen. This is not just something that is compartmentalized in Washington, DC, or courtrooms, but it’s something that happens in the communities where we live. When we launched it nationally and then, of course, it went international … that hunger that we had in our community to see abortion numbers go down was indeed the hunger everywhere.

The goal, honestly, was to get 25 cities that first fall of 2007, and we had 89 cities sign up for the first [national campaign]. We trained the local leaders and everything grew from there.

ZENIT: 40 Days for Life’s peaceful and prayerful campaign has not only changed the minds and hearts of women once seeking abortions, but also the doctors and staff of several abortion clinics. How does it feel to witness such conversions and to know that your organization has played a fundamental role in helping these people see the truth?

Carney: Like all miracles, it’s not something we were looking for; and it surely was not something we expected. We knew that, when people went out and peacefully prayed in front of these clinics, moms would choose life. We trusted that, we hoped for that and certainly, it’s been a blessing to see that.

One thing that has been out of the middle of nowhere has been the 43 abortion clinic workers who have […] had conversions and quit their jobs. Many of them have actually prayed on our side of the fence […] in front of the abortion facilities that they were working.

The most famous case has been Abby Johnson, [former] director of the Planned Parenthood in College Station, Texas, where 40 Days for Life began. [She] witnessed a live abortion on an ultrasound and immediately came into my office, which was conveniently located next door to her clinic. And that was during a 40 days for life campaign. We had been out there for years, praying for her [ …] and for all the women entering. That has been such a joy. It’s very humbling [and] it’s very exciting to see that play out, because we didn’t expect it and these are kind of new opportunities for conversion.

ZENIT: While abortion has been legal for over 30 years, and even acceptable in the secular society, it seems that, recently, more and more people are seeing the reality of what abortion is…the taking of a human life. With society desperately trying to keep God out of our lives, why do you think more people are standing up and exposing such evils?

Carney: Our culture has progressed so quickly that we have a lot of science and a lot of technology, yet no ethics on how to use [it]. [But] abortion has [had the opposite effect]. The science and technology and the reality of the …miracle inside the womb; seeing the ultrasound and seeing babies with fingernails and babies clapping and sucking their thumb inside the uterus, has opened peoples’ eyes to the reality that we’re taking a human life when we have an abortion.

It’s ironic that the pro-life movement is a young movement; there are a lot of young people who march in Washington, DC, every year — there are 250,000 people and two-thirds of those people are 35 and under. Yet, [even though we see…] politicians and young activists marching the streets to support a woman’s right for an abortion, it makes people very uncomfortable. It’s hard to support [abortion] on a public front, but it’s easy to stand up for life on a public front. Secularism stands on nothing … because it stands on itself. But the pro-life movement stands on God and it stands on life and the fact that life…should be defended.

ZENIT: For nearly a century, Planned Parenthood has represented itself as providing health care services to local communities throughout the country. However, even the mainstream media and former supporters seem to be shocked by the corrupt activities that have been revealed to be taking place behind their walls: abetting alleged sex traffickers and promoting abortions as a way to increase clinic profits. From your experience, how do you think these revelations will impact the pro-choice movement? The pro-life movement?

Carney: I think it certainly [gives] the pro-choice supporters and those who view Planned Parenthood as a legitimate organization that is trying to help women … because the online videos […] of Planned Parenthood clearly aiding and abetting the sex trafficking of minors is very disturbing. It’s not one doctor in one location, it was multiple locations, and it really speaks to the reality of what can go on in these abortion clinics, and particularly in Planned Parenthood, which is the nations’ largest abortion provider. They take in $363 million of our tax dollars every year. I think it’s devastating. It’s obviously devastating to Planned Parenthood. They’ve tried to play a PR game and cover it up, but it’s just been overwhelming. I think a lot of well intentioned, but misguided Pro-Choice people look at that and just shake their heads because the evidence was just so overwhelming that this is what they were doing.

Also …Congress, for the first time ever [is] voting to strip Planned Parenthood of its tax funding and so I think it’s devastating on all fronts.

For the pro-life movement, it’s a reminder of the reality of what we are fighting… because if you can go into the womb and destroy the most sacred human being among us, you can do anything. Your morals are simply not your guide. You are your own god and your own decision maker, and there’s no ceiling to the evil that can be accomplished. It should act as a motivator, but also shows us that Planned Parenthood is very vulnerable and that this was going on and this was completely an organization in ciaos at the time.

ZENIT: People all over the country are still able to participate in the next 40 Days for Life Campaign, is under way through April 17. Can you suggest ways that those who are unable to participate can help further the pro-life cause in their own community?

Carney: For people who cannot physically go out to peacefully [participate] at one of the vigils, we encourage them to take part in the daily prayers. If they go to they can sign in and receive the updates we e-mail every day; stories of babies who were saved, of clinic workers who had conversions and even clinics that have closed. And we share that through our email list. We also include the daily devotional and the daily scripture verse, so people can be praying with us throughout the 40 Days for Life.

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