WASHINGTON – Katherine Hearn never intended to pray at an abortion clinic during 40 Days for Life or any other pro-life effort.
Yet, Hearn, a Southern Baptist church member, once again stood outside such a facility Feb. 13 in Charlotte, N.C., on the first day of the latest 40 Days effort – just as she has in every campaign since the pro-life ministry went nationwide in 2007.
At Charlotte and 260 other locations in the world, Hearn and others gathered at abortion clinics for around-the-clock prayer vigils that will continue through March 24. Those vigils – combined with other times of prayer, as well as fasting, and community outreach during two campaigns each year – have been the focus of the highly successful 40 Days approach. In barely five years, the national movement – which has now gone international – has reported more than 550,000 participants and more than 6,700 unborn babies spared from abortion.
Before 40 Days launched nationally, Hearn already had been spending time praying outside an abortion clinic – a place she had planned for a quarter of a century never to revisit. She had undergone an abortion she “never intended to tell anyone about” as a senior in 1976 at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.
“I never went back to the abortion clinic for my check-up; I was never going back to an abortion clinic,” said Hearn, 58, as part of email and phone interviews with Baptist Press. “So, about 25 years later, when I knew the Lord was calling me back to my abortion …, I realized that if I truly trusted the Lord, then I had to obey Him and go back to where I never intended to go. The result for me was that my faith grew, and I met the Lord in a very personal way.”
Photo by Keith Cooper
Katherine Hearn, left, and Jill Coward, both representing Concerned Women for America, endure rain during a prayer vigil outside a Charlotte, N.C., abortion clinic Feb. 13 on the first day of the 40 Days for Life spring campaign.
Hearn was saved while a high school student at a Billy Graham evangelistic service in Charlotte, she said, but she “met the Lord in a way that completely, radically changed” her life when He led her to pray at an abortion clinic.
“It’s all about Jesus,” she said.
Hearn and a pro-life friend, Andrea Hines, already had spent an hour a day for 40 days praying outside a Charlotte clinic when Hines discovered on the Internet the 40 Days for Life effort inaugurated by a pro-life organization in College Station, Texas. When David Bereit and Shawn Carney – the leaders of that local campaign – decided to go nationwide in 2007, Hearn and Hines, were ready to lead the effort in Charlotte.
Though Hearn expressed disappointment in the “lack of response” to 40 Days from pastors and churches in Charlotte, that assessment did not extend to her pastor and church. They have strongly supported the 40 Days campaigns, she said. Mark Harris, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, led by example in 2008 and has continued to encourage the church to participate.
Harris told the church “he would be out all day, 12 hours,” Hearn said. “That is the kind of leadership that inspires the church body to get involved. The response was overwhelming.”
The prayer vigils outside Charlotte abortion clinics continue beyond the 40 Days spring and fall campaigns. A group from First Baptist Church goes to one of Charlotte’s abortion clinics to pray one day each month. Hearn, Hines and others pray regularly at a facility between 40 Days campaigns.
The 40 Days efforts in Charlotte have resulted in what Hearn conservatively estimated as more than 200 babies being saved. Last fall’s campaign recorded 31 children spared from abortion, she said.
On Oct. 8, a mother who decided not to have an abortion in the previous spring’s campaign gave birth to her son. She came to the clinic March 10 to abort her baby, Hearn said.
“She decided not to abort and came to talk with some of us out praying,” Hearn said. “From March until her son’s delivery in October we had lots of opportunities to witness and share the gospel with her.”
She also has seen at least a glimpse of the kind of healing she experienced occur as a result of 40 Days vigils.
During the fall outreach, a woman with a 40-day-old baby joined Hearn and others to pray outside a clinic.
“Right before she was preparing to leave, she began to cry,” Hearn said. She finally shared she had undergone an abortion seven years before at the same clinic.
“She had never told anyone, not even her husband,” Hearn said. “We were able to get her post-abortion help.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)