Every day since Feb 13, Diane Rotering has spent most of her time standing on a plot of dying grass across the street from the Blue Mountain Clinic. She is not alone. As vigil coordinator for the Missoula chapter of the faith-based, anti-abortion organization 40 Days For Life, Rotering makes sure all the people standing with her—mostly retirement-aged men and women—are kept current on the day's Bible readings and prayers. "We're not protesting," she says. "We're simply asking people to pray to end abortion."
Since 2004, 40 Days For Life has facilitated demonstrations throughout the U. S. The campaign, which happens simultaneously in over 300 cities twice a year, centers around supporters gathering outside abortion clinics for 12 hours a day for nearly six weeks. According to its website, the mission "is to bring together the body of Christ in a spirit of unity during a focused 40 day campaign of prayer, fasting, and peaceful activism ... to turn hearts and minds from a culture of death to a culture of life." The group claims to have discouraged more than 7,000 women from receiving abortions.
Missoula Coordinator Eric Winegart says the current campaign, which is Missoula's fifth and runs until March 24, has not yet confirmed the prevention of any abortions (he calls them "saves"), but feels the "culture of death" is strong in the Garden City.
"Missoula in particular has a lot of evil," he says. "We're here for the women and men who feel that pressure."
But some staff members at BMC feel the group's peaceful efforts are misguided. BMC Director of Development, Outreach and Communication Lynsey Bourke says the demonstrators' presence can be intimidating to the clinic's clientele, the majority of whom are there to receive basic health care. "Eight to 13 percent of the people who come in our doors receive the care they have a problem with ... ," she says. "They just stand out there all day judging people."
That some women may be made uncomfortable by their tactics doesn't bother supporters of 40 Days For Life. Rotering, who describes herself as a "global Christian," says having faith in Christ demands this sort of action. "The baby would choose to live, not go in the bucket," she says. "The baby has a choice no one is thinking of—except God and us."