Pro-lifers hold 40-day vigil outside Comm. Ave. Planned Parenthood

Volunteers with the "40 Days for Life" campaign say prayers outside Planned Parenthood’s Greater Boston Health Center on Oct. 7, 2020. Photo by Rhian Lowndes/BU News Service

By Rhian Lowndes
BU News Service

Pro-life locals are holding a 40-day vigil outside Planned Parenthood’s Greater Boston Health Center on Commonwealth Avenue, with signs that announce their mission: “Pray to End Abortion.”

The volunteers are part of 40 Days for Life, an internationally coordinated grassroots program that enlists residents to pray outside abortion providers in their own cities each fall and spring. The Boston volunteers stand outside the clinic twelve hours a day and will be on West Campus until Nov. 1.

Rita Russo, the Boston chapter’s campaign director from Norwood, said the vigils are not a protest, and while Massachusetts is very liberal, the participants show respect to those who disagree with them. 

“People pass by, and most people ignore us, some people thank us, and some people swear at us and give us the finger,” Russo said.

Rita Russo leads the Boston chapter of “40 Days for Life” in a vigil on Oct. 7, 2020. Photo by Rhian Lowndes / BU News Service

Russo said abortion had been sold as an “easy solution” to younger generations and that 40 Days for Life wants to offer help to women in crisis.

“We don’t have a very high opinion of Planned Parenthood,” said Russo. “They give less real healthcare, less pap smears every year, fewer breast exams, and if you’re really sick, they have to refer you elsewhere because they don’t offer those services. They say they’re about women’s health – they’re not. They’re about abortion, contraception, sex education, so more children [entering] into an active sex life at an earlier age to be more abortion customers. It’s all about money.”

While there has been an approximate 20% decrease in breast exams between the 2016 and 2019 Planned Parenthood annual reports, and a 9% decrease in pap smears, there has only been a 1% increase in abortion services. Planned Parenthood has also completed 8% more HIV tests and diagnosed 7.5% more STIs. 

Russo, who was accompanied by one other volunteer last Tuesday and four on Wednesday, handed out cards to people she spoke to. The cards offered an abortion after-care program’s contact information, a 24/7 hotline for abortion pill reversal, different support groups for people with unintended pregnancies, and a human trafficking hotline. 

Lorraine, who prayed with Russo on Tuesday and only gave her first name, helped give out information to anyone who stopped to speak with the 40 Days for Life campaign.

“People are desperate,” she said of abortion clients visiting the Planned Parenthood clinic. “They think it’s their only solution.” 

Rebecca Hart Holder, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, said in an email that reproductive rights and services, such as those offered by Planned Parenthood, provide “the ability to decide, if, when, or how to start a family.”

With Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s ongoing confirmation hearing, Holder worries that views like Russo’s will control legislation.

She said that Barrett’s installment on the Supreme Court “is yet another attempt to achieve [the Trump] administration’s and the anti-choice movement’s ultimate goal of denying us the ability to control our lives, bodies, and futures.”

She also believes that SCOTUS’s shift will negatively affect voting rights, LGBTQ rights, health care, racial justice, immigrant justice, and environmental justice.

“This is not just an attack on our reproductive freedom, it’s an attack on our nation’s values,” said Holder. 

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