Eight people gathered outside the Rutland Planned Parenthood center Friday to participate in “40 Days For Life,” a public demonstration involving fasting, prayer offerings and “community outreach” sign-holding outside abortion care providers.
Co-organizer Delia Warnecke made a sign with the words “HOPE” on it, and held it alongside others who had their own signs saying “Pray to End Abortion” and “Please choose Life.”
“Abortion is not the answer,” Warnecke said. “We’re here not only to pray for the unborn children to live their lives and not be cut short here but also for the moms and the dads that they can live a life without regret.”
Warnecke said the group prays for abortion care providers as well. Fellow participant JoAnn Nickels said the invocation of the number 40 came from the Gospel of Mark in the New Testament, in which Jesus says a demon can only be cast out by 40 days of prayer and fasting.
“Nobody wakes up and wants to go to work in an abortion clinic,” Warnecke said of the workers she prayed for. “We hope that we can help others instead of turning to a life of regret and sadness and denial. A lot of women who have had abortions in the past live a life of denial.”
But Lucy Leriche, vice president of public policy in Vermont for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, disagreed with the group’s statement.
“That typically isn’t true,” Leriche said. “Numerous studies have been done that show a small percentage of women who may feel some regret, but overwhelming majority say they feel relief after getting an abortion.”
Warnecke said before she was saved by God, she had an abortion herself, and wishes someone had been there to advise her to give birth instead of having an abortion.
“I was that person 30 years ago,” Warnecke said. “I knew what I was doing was wrong. I had all the wrong resources, all the wrong people. ... My life ended that day. I hated myself.” The organization’s website claims they have “saved” over 16,000 lives, closed over 100 abortion health care clinics, and contributed to almost 200 abortion care clinic workers seeking alternative employment.
“(Health care centers) close because onerous laws get put in place, when government tries to get involved,” Leriche said. “I don’t think they can really take that much credit for it. I think it’s unfortunate because really they’re taking away a safe and legal option for individuals. ... They don’t know any of (the patient’s) story. They don’t know what’s best for them.” Leriche said less than 5% of patients access Planned Parenthood’s abortion care, and called the group’s claims “irresponsible.”
“Abortions are such a tiny part of (what we do),” Leriche said. “We’re in the business of compassionate care. (Abortion) is nothing that we are trying to expand or push upon. We work very hard in our contraceptive work. We will not judge them or manipulate them, or convince them to do anything they’re not comfortable doing. We certainly respect everyone’s choices to make decisions about their own bodies.”
Warnecke and Nickels cited the films “Gosnell” and “Unplanned” as enlightening films that demonstrated factual events that could serve to better educate the community about the “truths” of abortion care, including one case where an abortion care worker witnessed a live birth during an abortion procedure.
“That doesn’t happen,” Leriche said. “It’s just inaccurate information. It’s a propaganda film, is how I would characterize it, from what I’ve heard of (“Unplanned”). Gosnell is a convicted criminal. What he was doing was absolutely evil and criminal. This is not indicative of anyone who provides abortion care. If that’s how they’re trying to portray abortion care, that’s very extreme, very dishonest, irresponsible.”
While Warnecke said Planned Parenthood didn’t have to offer abortion health care, and continue to provide their other services — which include mammograms, STD testing, male health care and birth control access — Warnecke said abortion care wasn’t the only service she disagreed with.
“Birth control also stops life,” Warnecke said about one of Planned Parenthood’s other health services.
“If they want to avoid birth control ... they have every right to make that decision,” Leriche said, “That’s how extreme this group is — 80% of groups across the country believe birth control should be safe and legal.”
Leriche said the 40 Days for Life group didn’t seem to have a very strong base in Vermont, but she supports their right to freedom of speech and expression.
“Vermont is a tough state,” Warnecke said. “It’s a very liberal state, it’s very tough in government right now. But this is not a government issue, it’s a moral issue.”