PHOENIX — The legal landscape may be different from 15 months ago, but the message and approach by Arizona’s 40 Days for Life campaign remains the same: letting women know God loves them and their unborn, and that there is an alternative to ending an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy.
“God is always working!” wrote 40 Days Glendale Campaign Leader Tammy O’Connor to supporters earlier this month. “You don’t know how many women saw you and decided that they weren’t going to go through with their abortions.”
The organization’s fall campaign in Arizona will officially launch with a Mass celebrated by Diocese of Phoenix Bishop emeritus Thomas J. Olmsted on Wednesday, Sept. 27, at St. Mary’s Basilica in downtown Phoenix. The Mass will start at 6:30 p.m.
Heather Gardner, national campaign director for Bryan, Texas-based 40 Days for Life, will address volunteers a few minutes after the conclusion of Mass at approximately 7:30 p.m.
The basilica is located just west of the Diocesan Pastoral Center.
Bishop Olmsted, who led the Diocese for over 19 years until August 2022, has been a consistent voice and participant in pro-life activities within the Valley, regularly praying the rosary and joining other speakers outside Planned Parenthood’s Glendale clinic.
In his homily during the Diocese’s January 2021 Respect Life Mass, then-Bishop Olmsted
questioned “how reproductive health care can include killing an infant in the womb.”
He later reminded worshippers that abortion is a sin, but “we must never lose hope in the power of God’s mercy to change lives.”
Fr. Killian McCaffrey, pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Scottsdale, will deliver the homily.
The Mass and fall campaign will be 40 Days’ third since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down its 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that made abortion legal as federal court law.
The high court’s June 2023 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling left it up to individual states to decide within their borders how to regulate the procedure. The ruling has resulted in a mix of laws, ranging from total bans to complete protection. Most states either have restrictions after a certain period of gestation or protection until the latter weeks of pregnancy.
Arizona currently allows abortions up to 15 weeks of pregnancy.
But that could change.
Arizona for Abortion Access, a political action committee, earlier this year filed with the Secretary of State’s Office proposed language for a constitutional amendment that would ask Grand Canyon State voters in November 2024 whether abortion rights should be expanded. The committee is currently seeking to gather the required signatures to put the issue on the ballot.
“40 Days’ focus remains at the local level and with women who feel pressured, unsure or frightened by the prospects of an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy,” said O’Connor.
“We might not be able to change the whole climate in the nation, but we don’t want abortions in Glendale. So, we’re just going to work at our clinic in Glendale, make it unthinkable here, offer help for these women.”
Volunteers will again pray, fast and counsel with those they feel led to share their message with in a peaceful, respectful way. O’Connor stressed that volunteers remain on public sidewalks and refrain from harassing or yelling at clinic clients.
Volunteers said prayer is more powerful and effective than engaging in loud confrontations.
O’Connor, citing comments from former Planned Parenthood director and pro-life advocate Abby Johnson, said “no-show rates” – decisions by women to turn back from entering a clinic – are as high as 75 percent when people are outside an abortion clinic praying.
O’Connor said prayer partners’ message is that there are other options, such as adoption and support, both material and spiritual, through crisis pregnancy centers.
“Nothing is more demeaning to women than telling them they have to get rid of their baby to have a productive and successful life. They can have their baby and still have a great life,” she said.