This is a response to Maine Family Planning CEO George Hill’s March 12th OpEd regarding the 40 Days for Life prayer vigil in Augusta. Hill made the following accusation: “Every day for about six weeks, patients, visitors and staff of Maine Family Planning in Augusta will pass a gauntlet of protesters at our front gates.”

For the majority of the six-week prayer vigil, large snow banks create a natural barrier, which blocks the public right-of-way adjacent to Family Planning’s gates. It is impossible for a massive amount of people to be anywhere near their gates. The 40-day prayer vigil is taking place across the street, approximately 60 feet away from their gates.

40 Days for Life is not a protest; it is a prayer vigil! Two to four people are across the street praying for an end to abortion throughout the day, for 40 days. All participants sign a peace statement.

Hill makes a lot of false assumptions about prayer vigil participants. For example, “The protesters would have us believe that only certain types of women have abortions.”

Prayer volunteers have been impacted by abortion either directly or indirectly. We have friends, daughters, granddaughters, girlfriends, wives and other family members who have had abortions. We know classmates and co-workers who have had abortions. Some of us have had abortions ourselves. Some of us have driven a friend or family member to an abortion facility.

We have watched the negative impact of abortion on our friends and loved ones. The aftermath of abortion has had an effect on us. We are there because we want to spare others from the same agony.

Abortion has been declining in Maine since 2008. Has praying for an end to abortion contributed to the decline in abortion? The Maine Center for Disease Control has made available the abortion numbers up to 2011. In a four-year period, abortion has dropped by 34 percent. The decline in abortion corresponds with the international prayer movement.

In 2007, 40 Days for Life launched the first national prayer campaign. Residents of Maine participated in the prayer and fasting component of the grassroots movement in 2007 and in 2008. Starting in 2009, Maine residents began participating in all three components: prayer and fasting, prayer vigil, and community outreach. Some will call this a coincidence; others see a correlation.

Prayer is the cornerstone of the Respect Life movement. For over 40 years, many organizations such as Maine Right to Life have been educating people about the truth of abortion. Pregnancy support centers throughout Maine provide no-cost services.

Technology is playing a role in the decline of abortions. Women can view the ultrasound of their offspring between five to six weeks of pregnancy. Mothers take home pictures of their children, who are still in their wombs, and show them to friends, family, classmates and coworkers. Websites such as Teen Breaks provide young adults a place to share their abortion experiences.

Since 2009, we have been praying in the rain, snow, ice, wind and sun in Augusta because we care. We sacrifice our time, gas and money to be there because we care. Our personal experiences with family, friends, classmates and co-workers who have abortions has given us empathy for the women going into Family Planning’s abortion facility.

Abortion has impacted our lives in many different ways. We believe the best way to show someone you care about them is by praying with an open heart for them.

Janet LeBlanc is campaign director of 40 Days for Life in Augusta.