GLENDALE, Ariz. — Pro-life supporters returned recently to the sidewalk outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Glendale — a site where Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted has prayed with them in the past — to lift their voices for an end to abortion.
The Oct. 15 candlelight gathering marked the midpoint to the annual 40 Days for Life Fall campaign — and included prayers and remarks by leaders of various ministries. It also featured an address by the former clinic director who reported medical, legal and ethical violations by the business and who later won a $3 million wrongful-termination lawsuit against Planned Parenthood, which had fired her in 2017 after she went public, accusing her of having narcotics in her office.
“Tonight, we are not only celebrating life but (remembering) all the lives lost,” said Mayra Rodriguez on the sidewalk outside the clinic.
“Unfortunately, we were not here to help these women choose the right path.”
Rodriguez’s story is becoming well-documented.
Hired in 2000, she worked for over 15 years, performing laboratory tests, intaking patients and working at a contraceptive clinic. It was not until 2016, when she was appointed director of the Glendale clinic and two others in Arizona, that Rodriguez said she saw practices that left no doubt the procedure violates God’s law.
It didn’t take long before Rodriguez knew she had to speak out. But before that, she told the group, there was a chance encounter with Bishop Olmsted, who joined in a sidewalk prayer vigil in December 2016.
“‘This is the last Christmas you will be working here,’” she recalled the bishop telling her. “He was right. And now, I am on the right side of the sidewalk and the right side of history.”
“Praying works,” she said. “If you are here and see no women on a day they are open, I promise you, you have changed hearts.”
Other speakers offered similar messages.
Laurie Woydziak, area coordinator for Healing Hearts Ministries, International, recalled having an abortion a number of years ago that left her infertile. Now, she urges women not to make the same mistake.
“The Bible has answers for every one of them: Repent and find hope and healing in Jesus Christ,” she said.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Dec. 1 in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The question before the justices is whether to uphold a Mississippi law banning most abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. It marks the latest challenge to the principle established in the court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. 40 Days Glendale coordinator Tammy O’Connor called it “the best chance” to overturn the 48-year-old ruling.
Participants reaffirmed their commitment to pray. Many are expected to gather for future vigils.
Cheryl Lehman has attended prayer events outside the clinic for the past few years.
“You can’t fix the problem until you fix the heart. It starts with the Church,” she said. “Otherwise, we are not the light of the world.”