By Joyce Coronel, The Catholic Sun

Catholics from St. Bernadette Parish stood shoulder to shoulder March 9, praying the rosary outside Family Planning Associates, an abortion clinic in Phoenix.

The effort was part of the worldwide 40 Days for Life campaign that takes place each year during Lent. Campaigns are underway in Phoenix, Glendale, and Tempe on behalf of abortion-minded women, unborn babies, and clinic workers.

Family Planning Associates, located on north 7th Street, provides both surgical and chemical abortions. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision last June that overturned Roe, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion in the U.S., there’s been scrambling across the nation as states, pro-life leaders and abortion activists settle into the new reality. Abortion is illegal in Arizona after 15 weeks with some exceptions.

Ellen Sweeney, director of the Phoenix prayer campaign, commented on the efforts of the 40 Days for Life participants. While most pray the rosary, there’s often someone attempting to speak with women entering the clinic.

“The question is getting to these women before it’s too late for the reversal pill,” Sweeney said.

She was referring to the regimen followed by pro-life pregnancy centers that assist women who have begun the process of a chemical abortion. In that procedure, women are given a medication to halt the growth of the unborn baby and a second medication to expel him or her.

Family Planning Associates’ website touts the abortion pill as one that can be taken “in the comfort of your own home” and “without having to involve a friend or family member.”

Mike Phelan, director of the Office of Marriage and Respect Life for the Diocese of Phoenix, was on hand at the prayer event outside of Family Planning Associates March 9 and offered his take.

“So many lies prop up the whole abortion apparatus,” Phelan said, “from misnaming the child a clump of cells, to the seeming ease of procedures, to the denial of psychological and spiritual consequences.”

Fr. John Lankeit, parochial vicar at St. Bernadette, prayed alongside parishioners on the sidewalk outside the clinic. When the rosary concluded, he addressed the crowd, telling them the importance of their witness.

“It’s important that you understand that you have a role in evangelizing that priests don’t have,” Fr. Lankeit said. Lay people, he added, “see your witness out here. They see your joy.”

The fact that the Joyful Mysteries concluded the hour of prayer by St. Bernadette parishioners, Fr. Lankeit said, was appropriate.

“We should be joyful because this is just a link in the chain of victory. We’ve won. It’s just a question of time catching up with the reality, so we should walk out of here feeling very joyful. The spiritual foundations of this have been rattled to the core.”

Worldwide, the 40 Days for Life campaign has 1 million volunteers and the help of 20,000 churches in 64 nations. According to the organization’s website,, more than 22,000 lives have been saved, 136 abortion centers have been closed and 136 abortion workers have quit since 2007.

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