VIDEOS/PHOTOS: '40 Days for Life' abortion protests begin outside Planned Parenthood

Abortion opponents protest outside Planned Parenthood in Naples on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010 for the first day of the campaign “40 Days for Life.” The campaign originated in Bryan, Texas in 2004 and includes prayer and fasting, vigils and community outreach. Demonstrations are planned in 167 cities in the U.S., Canada, Ireland and Australia. Greg Kahn/Staff

Photo by GREG KAHN, Daily News // Buy this photo

Abortion opponents protest outside Planned Parenthood in Naples on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010 for the first day of the campaign “40 Days for Life.” The campaign originated in Bryan, Texas in 2004 and includes prayer and fasting, vigils and community outreach. Demonstrations are planned in 167 cities in the U.S., Canada, Ireland and Australia. Greg Kahn/Staff

40 Days for Life Campaign

Protesters gather in front of Planned Parenthood ...

Abortion opponents begin "40 Days for Life" demonstration at Planned Parenthood in Naples

Abortion opponents kicked off the first day ...

Planned Parenthood of Naples

1425 Creech Road, Naples, FL

— It was a well-choreographed scene, and everyone knew their part.

Abortion opponents stood on the sidewalk outside the clinic and prayed. Yellow-vested Planned Parenthood representatives met patients at their cars and escorted them into the clinic, shielding faces with umbrellas. Patients came and went, walking past the praying crowd.

More than 20 abortion opponents kicked off their “40 Days for Life” campaign Wednesday morning at Planned Parenthood of Collier County, which began performing abortions on Mondays last year. Demonstrations are planned from Feb. 17 to March 28, Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

It is the first year the national “40 Days for Life” campaign has been organized in Naples, and the impetus was Planned Parenthood’s addition of abortions to the clinic at 1425 Creech Road, said Loretta Judy, the group’s communications director.

“I’m here because I want to pray to end abortion and to support those of my community who think the same way I do,” said Judy, 56. “The legal system hasn’t gotten us very far, so we figure we need God to end this killing of babies.”

The demonstrators make patients feel uncomfortable, said Char Wendel, Planned Parenthood executive director. She hired extra security guards for the first day of the event because she wasn’t sure what to expect.

“We are trying to make services accessible to people and the people on the sidewalk are choosing to set up a barrier,” Wendel said. “... I think the patients get angry, get frustrated, they don’t understand why it’s anyone’s business that they’re coming in for services. And I think for staff, it strengthens our commitment.”

Abortion represents 2 percent to 3 percent of the services Planned Parenthood provides, Wendel said.

Twenty-four people stood outside about 9:45 a.m., quietly praying. They held a large “40 Days for Life ” banner and exhibited signs: “Men regret lost fatherhood,” “Women do regret abortions.” Pink and blue balloons floated attached to a cooler, “It’s a girl!” and “It’s a boy!” printed on them.

Meanwhile, two security guards hired by the clinic drove wooden signs into the ground behind the demonstrators. The pink-painted boards advertised birth control, parenting workshops, vasectomies, HIV testing and prenatal and adoption referrals.

Tara Burke stood on the edge of the crowd, her head bowed. She’s a 36-year-old mother of three and a regular at the Monday demonstrations.

“I think, for me personally, it is important because I want the young girls going in to see a young person out here praying for them,” said Burke, who is part of a group from St. Agnes Church.

Other demonstrators commented on the clinic’s sign advertising adoption referrals, voicing skepticism.

Event organizers are coordinating with Naples’ Catholic and protestant churches, with different churches taking responsibility for different days. “40 Days for Life” originated in Bryan, Texas in 2004 and the campaign includes prayer and fasting, vigils and community outreach. Demonstrations are planned in 167 cities in the U.S., Canada, Ireland and Australia.

By 11 a.m., the number of demonstrators had dwindled to 10. The yellow-vested Planned Parenthood representatives changed shifts, and the abortion opponents continued to pray.

For more information on the demonstrations visit www.40daysforlife.com/swfl and for more information on Planned Parenthood visit www.plannedparenthood.org

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