For 40 days, no matter the weather, a group has gathered to pray on the sidewalk of the shopping center near the Planned Parenthood office in McKinney.
Representing churches all over the city and North Texas, the 40 Days for Life vigil in McKinney that runs through April 1 wants to end abortion and share alternatives to the women walking into the clinic, which does not provide abortion services. The McKinney clinic was in the news last July when someone threw a Molotov cocktail and damaged the door and sidewalk.
Leading prayers outside the clinic this spring, Paul Borchard wants peace and prayer to prevail on the corner of Medical Center Drive and Eldorado Parkway in McKinney. Borchard told McKinney's Town Square Buzz that the 40 Days for Life campaign stands on a foundation of prayer and fasting.
Borchard said the vigil, which began Feb. 22, includes 40 days of prayer and fasting, peaceful vigil and community outreach.
"We are praying that, with God's help, we will end abortion in Collin County and across the country," Borchard said. "We want this facility to close in McKinney. We want them to go away."
Borchard said, "This is the time of year with Lent and Easter when a lot of people are fasting and praying. It is the right time for 40 Days for Life in McKinney."
MUST BE PEACEFUL
Each participant in the McKinney vigil must sign a statement agreeing to be peaceful in protest. Organizers say that because of vigils, 61 abortion clinc workers have quit their jobs, 21 abortion facilities have closed and more than 5,000 babies have been saved.
"We don't advocate the use of graphic displays, and we tell people `don't yell at anyone' entering Planned Parenthood," said Lauren Muzyka, a national campaign strategist for 40 Days for Life in Texas. "You can't win hearts and minds by yelling at someone in crisis. We are there to offer peaceful prayer. We tell them you are just there to pray. We are not an Occupy Wall Street group. We keep the area clean. We don't yell at anybody. We are peaceful. We are praying to save lives. There is just such a contrast."
Borchard said his group in McKinney won't leave the sidewalk or surround a woman seeking services from the clinics.
"In McKinney, we don't have access because it is in a business setting," Borchard said. "You don't know who is going into the shopping center for a smoothie or for Planned Parenthood."
Muzyka, a trained sidewalk counselor for 40 Days for Life, said, "We don't block them. We let them walk past. If she wants to talk, I will say, `Hi. My name is Lauren, we are here to pray and here to help.' We want them to know we are there to help right away."
The Texas A&M grad and a Pro-Life attorney trained at Ave Maria School of Law, Muzyka said she has learned that many of the clinics are in low-income neighborhoods and near colleges.
"That is the market they target," said Muzyka, who disagrees with the premise that the clinic is for planning families.
Muzyka said, "That's their fancy name for it, but I'd nickname it 'Planned Destruction.' The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights gives us a right to be out here. Saving lives gives us a reason to be out here praying every day. If you let freedom of religion, the right to assemble and freedom of speech fall by the wayside, then you can lose all of your freedoms."
She said, "We are here to have an impact on our community. We are here to stand with and for our brothers and sisters. We are called by God. It is not a man-given right. It is a God-given right."
Critics have made a point of saying that men have no place in the debate.
"They just try to write us off," Borchard said. "They are looking for a reason to write you off because you are making them uncomfortable.
"We do not harass, but do offer hope" he said. "At our 40-day prayer vigil outside the McKinney Planned Parenthood, we stand in prayer and hold signs. We are calling the community to prayer and have on-site information about local pregnancy resource centers and information about a healing program for those who suffer from abortion."
Muzyka said the vigils help others realize what is going on down the street.
"Americans won't fight it if they can't see it," Muzyka said.
The signs say “Pray to End Abortion,” “Adoption a Loving Option,” “Women Do Regret Abortion,” “Men Regret Lost Fatherhood,” “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you – God.”
Borchard and Muzyka said they have seen husbands, boyfriends and fathers stand outside the clinics and cry because they have no say in what happens.
Muzyka said, "It is heartbreaking to see a grown man crying because his wife, or daughter or sister is going in, and he has no voice in what happens."
"There are those who disagree with us and make their views known, at times with obscene shouts and gestures, but overall we have had an extremely positive response from the community," Borchard said, adding anyone can join the vigil. "I invite you to come pray with us and see for yourself."
At St. Gabriel The Archangel Catholic Community in Stonebridge, Borchard said he has received no criticism for his stand.
"I can't walk into the church without somebody saying thank you for helping transform the community," Borchard said. "We are seeing a good cross-denominational effort, too. You will get volunteers organizing their groups and coming from many different churches. Students come out and pray. We have all ages and denominations. When God's ministers come out, there is just something about their presence."
Muzyka said, "When people come out to pray, something spiritual happens to them. I have had many tell many that it personally changed their spirituality. And when church leaders are out praying with us, we have seen it have an impact. It has an impact on those who pray and on those who work for the clinics and those who are going into the clinics."
Borchard said the trained sidewalk counselors can tell women about alternatives such as the HOPE Resource Center of McKinney. The 40 Days mission also includes helping women who have had abortions and offering referral services to Rachel's Vineyard.
In addition to the spring vigil in McKinney, 40 Days will join more groups in Dallas in front of the Southwestern Women's Surgery Center, 8616 Greenville Ave., this fall when the vigil runs up to the Sunday before election day.
TWO BY TWO, MORE THAN 300 PRAYING
"While I cannot share their names for obvious confidentiality reasons, several of the McKinney 40 Days for Life participants have shared with me their past abortions and past involvement with Planned Parenthood," said Borchard, adding that the vigils always have at least two praying and that more than 300 have participated this spring.
"While the vigil is very peaceful, it does take some courage, especially for those who have not been out to the vigil before and do not know what to expect," he said. "We are taking a stand on probably the most controversial issue of our time, and the volunteers do not know how others will respond. As with any civil rights issue we see in history those who make a stand do open themselves up to ridicule and persecution."
Borchard said there are alternatives to abortion, such as adoption, and that someone should stand for the unborn baby.
"We try, the question is, who is listening?" Borchard said. "There are many life-affirming individuals and organizations who try to be a voice for these voiceless innocent."
Borchard said, "While 40 Days for Life takes no official stance on contraception, this third mechanism of the morning-after pill is an early abortion and takes the life of a newly formed human being."
WHY 40 DAYS?
Borchard said, "There are many periods of 40 in the Bible and all of them are periods of testing, preparation and transformation. Noah experienced transformation during 40 days of rain. Moses was transformed by 40 days on Mount Sinai. David was transformed by Goliath’s 40 day challenge. Elijah was transformed when God gave him 40 days of strength from one meal. Nineveh was transformed when God gave the city 40 days to remain faithful.
"Jesus transformed the world following His 40 days in the desert," he said. "The disciples were transformed after spending 40 days with Jesus following his resurrection. Pregnancy is 40 weeks.
"We are praying for and seeing our community transformed during these 40 Days for Life," he said. "40 Days for Life started with four individuals who had been working for an end to abortion in their community of College Station, Texas. They felt they were at an impasse and were not doing as much as they could to stop abortion in their community. They decided to meet to pray and ask God what they needed to do."
Borchard said, "During that time of prayer known by 40 Days For Life leaders as the 'legend of the old wooden table,' they came up with the idea of 40 days of focused prayer and fasting for an end to abortion, 40 Days of round the clock 24-hour vigil outside of their local Planned Parenthood abortion facility, and 40 Days of community outreach, calling the community to pray for an end to abortion. After this first 40 Days For Life in College Station, it has spread to many city across the country and even internationally."
David Bereit, national director of 40 Days for Life, was in McKinney earlier this month and told the group, "More than half a million people have joined this effort throughout the world since the first 40 days for Life began in 2007, and most importantly, 5,000 babies have been saved and 21 abortion facilities closed.”
Video of Bereit at McKinney vigil: http://youtu.be/ci_3dKk6hKQ
Bereit brought forward Ramona Trevino, former director at the Planned Parenthood office in nearby Sherman, Texas. Trevino said she quit her job during the 40 Days campaign, and after she left, the facility closed down. Trevino, a Pro-Life speaker now, told the crowd that it was surreal to be praying at the location that she used to cover when the McKinney manager was on vacation.
Trevino interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOuA0PspDTc
The 40 Days for Life Victory Rally will be Sunday, April 1 at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in the old St. Rose Hall at 411 Paula Road in McKinney. State Rep. Ken Paxton will give the keynote speech, and the Maylee Thomas Band will be playing. The event will include refreshments and area pro-life information booths.
PLANNED PARENTHOOD'S APPROACH
From Planned Parenthood: "For more than 90 years, Planned Parenthood has promoted a commonsense approach to women’s health and well-being, based on respect for each individual’s right to make informed, independent decisions about health, sex, and family planning.
"Planned Parenthood is America’s most trusted provider of reproductive health care. Our skilled health care professionals are dedicated to offering men, women, and teens high-quality, affordable medical care. One in five American women has chosen Planned Parenthood for health care at least once in her life.
"The heart of Planned Parenthood is in the local community. Our 79 unique, locally governed affiliates nationwide operate nearly 800 health centers, which reflect the diverse needs of their communities."
MAP OF WOMEN'S HEALTH PROGRAM PROVIDERS
Borchard said more than 2,500 qualified providers in the Women’s Health program operate more than 4,600 locations across the state. He said these typically offer comprehensive primary and preventative care to low-income women in addition to family planning.
"That means women will likely see a doctor at her visit," Borchard said.
Planned Parenthood McKinney
1720 W. Eldorado Parkway at Medical Center Drive. 972-548-7482
In Spanish: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/esp/
Dallas surgery center: http://www.southwesternwomens.com/
The Dallas surgery center's short info video for women seeking services: http://youtu.be/6l39ZwsPt98
McKinney vigil: http://40daysforlife.com/mckinney/
HOPE Resource Center of McKinney, 2740 Virginia Parkway Suite 200. 972-562-HOPE (4673)
LifeTalk Resource Center, 8380 Warren Parkway, Suite 204, Frisco 214-618-9352.
Real Options for women, 700 E. Park Blvd., Suite 206, Plano 972-424-5144.
BirthChoice Counseling for Women, 8604 Greenville Ave., Suite 102, Dallas 214-631-2402.
White Rose Women's Center, Dallas, 214-221-7711 or 214-821-6292.
NEWS COVERAGE OF VIGIL NEAR TEXAS A&M
WFAA COVERAGE OF MCKINNEY VIGIL
BOOKS SUGGESTED BY 40 DAYS FOR LIFE
Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion by Theresa Karminski Burke
Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader's Eye-Opening
Journey across the Life Line by Abby Johnson and Cindy Lambert
Won by Love: Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe of Roe V. Wade, Speaks Out for the Unborn As She
Shares Her New Conviction for Life by Norma McCorvey and Gary Thomas (Dec 1997)
The Scarlet Lady: Confessions of a Successful Abortionist by Carol Everett (Oct 1991)
The rally video about Daniel that inspires McKinney's 40 Days for Life vigil:
Photos courtesy of 40 Days for Life McKinney