National director of 40 Days for Life David Bereit says hearts change by pro-life witnessing.

CCN PHOTO | DEBORAH GYAPONG

National director of 40 Days for Life David Bereit says hearts change by pro-life witnessing.

June 10, 2013
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS

Abortion clinic workers should not be seen as the enemy and they can be converted to the pro-life cause, says the founder and national director of 40 Days for Life.

David Bereit said there is a widespread view that people who work in abortion clinics are "killers," "cold, calculating and money driven."

"We view them as the problem," he said. "They are not the enemy. They are victims of the enemy. The enemy is Satan."

"Many got into the abortion industry because they thought they were helping people," Bereit said. Others got into it because they needed a job. But it's an awful job with an extremely high turnover.

Those in the pro-life movement have to understand how abortion workers view them, he told a recent workshop of pro-life high school students in Ottawa. They see us as self-righteous, judgmental and trying to take away rights from women.

"We have to show them a face of love," Bereit said. "We need to love them the way God loves them. We need to look at them as his children, made in his likeness."

Doing so, he admitted, is not always easy.

One evening he was in a restaurant with his family. Some abortion workers were sitting at another table. One of them called the police and accused him of stalking her. The police came and took Bereit outside to question him. He could see the abortion workers at their table, laughing. Though the police let him go, he was angry.

He went straight to his church to pray. When he told one of the church elders what happened and how furious he was, the man told him, "Don't you ever give up hope."

Bereit urged the pro-life students to build relationships over time. "Don't smother people with a stack of books and literature."

He told the story of former Planned Parenthood manager Abby Johnson, who had been recruited by Planned Parenthood while a college student.

She started to volunteer, then got a job and eventually worked her way up to become director of a Planned Parenthood office in Texas. At the same time she started volunteering, pro-life volunteers began praying outside that facility.

PRAY FOR ABBY

A young woman named Elizabeth began to sidewalk counsel. Elizabeth decided she was going to pray for Abby specifically and regularly, and would otherwise be friendly, nothing else. She made it her goal to pray Abby out of the abortion business, Bereit said.

Though Johnson and the pro-life volunteers were often on opposite sides in the media, the volunteers were friendly and said "hello" to the abortion workers as they came and went.

One day, Elizabeth brought a bouquet of flowers with a card attached saying, "I'm praying for you" and a verse from Psalms. Abby looked at the flowers and thought to herself, "I hope they are not for me." Elizabeth tried to give them to her, but Abby shook her head and ran inside.

BOUQUET OF LOVE

Later that day, Elizabeth left the flowers in the driveway. Abby saw them from the window and not wanting them to be run over, decided to go downstairs to fetch them. She put the flowers in a vase and tossed the card unopened into her desk drawer, Bereit said.

Sometime later, long after the flowers had faded, Johnson was asked to help with an ultrasound-guided abortion. She had been a business manager with no experience in this area, but she agreed to hold the ultrasound probe to assist the doctor. "Is this going to be a bad experience?" she asked herself, but then decided it would educational.

She observed the 13-week-old baby in the womb. The doctor introduced the cannula or wand of the suction device that would vacuum the baby out of the uterus. Bereit said Johnson saw the baby seem to "be jerking away in pain" as the doctor prodded it with the cannula.

"This is a child," she thought. "This child is feeling something." The cannula pinned the baby against the uterine wall, and the doctor said, "Beam me up, Scotty" to signal that he wished the vacuum device turned on.

BABY DESTROYED

For a second she watched the baby fight for life, then watched its body be ripped to shreds, he said. The last thing she saw was the baby's spine going up the tube.

Johnson ran out of the room crying. "Eight years I've been living a lie and I have sold this lie to thousands of other women," Bereit said she thought to herself.

But where could she turn? All her friends were pro-choice. They had no idea what she had experienced. She ran to her office and looked out the window. People were outside praying as a result of a 40 Days for Life campaign of praying and fasting.

She remembered how they never lived up to the angry stereotypes; they were never shouting, always loving. She opened up the drawer and took out the note Elizabeth had sent with the flowers. "I'm praying for you."

Johnson ran outside to the pro-lifers. She told one of the leaders, "I'm ready to get out. You always said you would be there for me," Bereit recounted.

Planned Parenthood filed a massive lawsuit against Johnson, trying to silence her. But the lawsuit ensured her story went all over the news, he said.

STORY GOES NATIONAL

Though the start was rough, Johnson got a publishing deal for a book that was in the top 10 as a national bestseller. Since then, she has been speaking around the world.

She has founded a ministry to help abortion workers like herself get out of the business, and Bereit is on her board of directors, he said.

Johnson was the 26th abortion worker to leave the industry and become pro-life, he said. To date, there have been 83.

As people gather to pray and fast outside abortion clinics, they come in contact with the "Almighty power of God."

When people see that people are willing to lay down their lives for this cause, to pray in the snow, the cold and the heat, and they are willing to help an abortion worker pay their bills when they leave their job, or to help a mother with an unplanned pregnancy, hearts begin to change, he said.

Bereit said he had prayed for years for Johnson to have a conversion. "When she did, I didn't believe it," he said.

"With men, changing hearts is impossible," he said. "With God, nothing is impossible."