SARASOTA — Local anti-abortion activists and clergy lined the street in front of Sarasota’s Planned Parenthood clinic on Wednesday to kick off 40 Days for Life, a period of prayer and fasting in opposition to abortion.
A national speaker and members of Silent No More, a group of women who regret past abortions, strained to be heard over morning traffic, encouraging a group of about 35 people to focus attention on the damage done by abortion.
But after the commotion waned and the leaders dispersed, Bradenton’s Rosarita Chuanico stood alone in front of the Planned Parenthood building, preparing to pray.
“I believe you should pray to end abortion,” said Chuanico, who learned about the event from the bulletin at St. Joseph Catholic Church.
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“Life came from God. He is the only one who has the right to take it.”
Chuanico’s quiet, personal reflection is the right approach, according to 40 Days for Life organizers.
Volunteers from churches, outreaches and ministries plan to keep peaceful vigil outside the Planned Parenthood office at 736 Central Ave. in Sarasota from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Nov. 1.
Sarasota is one of 212 communities in the United States, Canada and Denmark holding simultaneous campaigns.
This is Sarasota’s third 40 Days for Life observance. The 40-day time frame mirrors the biblical history of God bringing transformation in 40-day periods.
Event co-chair David Whitmire said he expects no confrontations between the activists and Planned Parenthood workers or clients.
“The idea is to keep it quiet,” Whitmire said. “They will stand or march and only be prayerful. We’re only allowing the one sign, specifically the one that says we’re praying to end abortion. It only has one Bible passage on it. There’s not going to be in any way, shape or form any display of a protest.”
Sarasota’s Planned Parenthood office was closed Wednesday for educational training of staff, spokeswoman Wendy Grassi said. She said 94 percent of the office’s client base visits for contraception or family planning, only 6 percent for abortions.
The Manatee Planned Parenthood office does not perform abortions but refers clients to Sarasota and other facilities.
“Planned Parenthood is all about prevention,” Grassi said. “The demonstrators spend so much time outside walking. If they only would join us in helping prevent the need for abortions. It takes everybody to help these women.”
Earlier, Scott Klusendorf, a national speaker and author who trains anti-abortion advocates how to defend their views, urged the crowd to ignore the political climate and fight for what they feel is right.
“It is very tempting to look at this building and think of all the people that are going to blow right past us going in,” Klusendorf said.
“But surrender is not an option. Right now we have to reaffirm our courage. ... Let’s stand for truth, however costly it might be.”