By Brian Gibson, Executive Director
For the first time in a widely viewed movie, “Unplanned” rightfully portrays those who sidewalk counsel and engage in peaceful, prayer-filled events at abortion facilities in a positive and redeeming light. The co-heroes of the story are Shawn and Marilisa Carney and 40 Days for Life. Of course, with Pro-Life Action Ministries being the first to organize sidewalk counseling in the nation and being the ones who conduct successful 40 Days for Life campaigns in the Twin Cities, it is heartening to see this positive portrayal.
But I have a backstory to share regarding “Unplanned.” In the story line of the movie, the Carneys were part of an organization called the Coalition for Life before starting the 40 Days for Life campaigns. In April 1997, Pro-Life Action Ministries was the local host/sponsor for a Human Life International World Conference held in the Twin Cities over a four-day period. While working to keep things running smoothly, I was approached by two young college women with a troubling development in their hometown: Planned Parenthood was opening an abortion facility. They asked if they could have some time seeking advice and direction for dealing with this bad situation.
I spent several hours on multiple days offering advice on organizing, attitudes, church and pastor involvement, persistence in effort, and the philosophy of Pro-Life Action Ministries. At that time we had already been organizing our Good Friday vigil for more than a decade and organizing sidewalk counseling since 1981, our Society of Centurions, headed by former abortion nurse Joan Appleton, was reaching out to abortion workers and helping those who had left the abortion industry with the mercy of God and deep Christian psychological counseling, and we were engaging the public on abortion in a wide variety of events.
These young women took notes and asked engaging questions. Upon returning home, they started organizing, modeling this effort after Pro-Life Action Ministries. The town was College Station, Texas and they formed the Brazos Valley Coalition for Life, later renamed Coalition for Life. They began sidewalk counseling and eventually started the 40 Days for Life campaigns.
In a “master learns from student” manner, we learned of the 40 Days for Life campaigns early in the national effort and picked up from the Coalition for Life a powerful tool for engaging abortion. The location of our first series of campaigns was Regions Hospital, the first abortion facility to close in Minnesota directly because of pro-life efforts.
David Bereit shared at one of our 40 Days for Life campaigns at Regions Hospital that these women had searched all across the nation and decided to meet with us and go in the direction of Pro-Life Action Ministries, something I had not previously known. Shawn Carney later stated at one of our 40 Days for Life campaigns at the mega-Planned Parenthood that one of those young women eventually became his wife, again something I only learned of as Shawn shared the story.
So why tell all this? To ride the coattails of a popular film and position us in a more favorable light? The answer to the second question is one of those “yes and no” answers. If now knowing all this, you will become more involved in the work we do, help save more babies, help close more abortion facilities, help more abortion workers leave the evil behind and follow after Christ, and aid in ending this egregious human rights injustice, then the answer is, “most definitely.”
Join in our efforts. If you saw the movie “Unplanned,” you more fully understand what is at stake. And you saw the type of work that is powerful, prayerful and redeeming. You now have the obligation to act upon that knowledge. Join with us. Make a commitment to spend at least two hours a month at an abortion facility in prayer. Carry a sign or don’t carry a sign, but be there in prayer. The only one you need to talk to while in front of an abortion facility is God. Schedule this time in your calendar, be it two hours once a month or one hour twice a month or 30 minutes once a week or 15 minutes twice a week. However you are able to schedule time, just do it. We have the training. We have the information. We have the organized events. By the way, two hours a month equals just one full day in a year. Learn more here!
Photo: Emma Elle Roberts (left) portrays Marilisa Carney (right) in a scene from “Unplanned”