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40 Days for Life in Spain: Abortion activists label pro-lifers ‘dangerous’

Posters against the 40 Days for Life campaign in Madrid, Spain, found on Sept. 27, 2023. / Credit: 40 Days for Life Spain

ACI Prensa Staff, Oct 2, 2023 / 11:30 am (CNA).

Wednesday, Sept. 27, marked the beginning of the 40 Days for Life fall campaign, which will run through Nov. 5, and abortion supporters in Spain were quick to react.

Pro-lifers in the country are praying near abortion clinics in about 20 cities. At one center in Madrid, Clinica Isadora, located in the university district, abortion advocates put signs on the lampposts reading: “Attention: Dangerous religious fundamentalists on the loose,” “STOP fanaticism,” “40 Days of hating women” and “40 days against human rights.”

An Instagram post from 40 Days for Life Madrid has a banner at the top reading “Warning!” and shows a woman standing next to one such lamppost holding a sign reading “You are not alone, we can help you.” The text that follows says “Day 1 of the campaign: Danger!! Religious fundamentalist on the loose… armed with a rosary. ‘If God is with us, who can be against us?’ Today we entrust [to God] all the volunteers participating in the 40-day campaign so that God may give them the strength to stand firm even during persecution!“…Courage… I have overcome the world.”

In recent years, actions have multiplied to try to criminalize the efforts of pro-lifers. In 2022, the government approved changes to the Penal Code that seek to strongly curtail pro-life activism at abortion clinics such as the 40 Days for Life prayer and fasting campaign.

The Penal Code establishes prison sentences for anyone who “in order to hinder the exercise of the right to voluntary interruption of pregnancy, harasses a woman through annoying, offensive, intimidating, or coercive acts that undermine her freedom.”

Similar penalties are also provided for those who interact with “doctors or directors of centers authorized to terminate a pregnancy with the aim of hindering the exercise of their profession or position.”

Given these circumstances, 40 Days for Life reworked the instructions it gave to volunteers in March in order to avoid any circumstance that could be taken advantage of to make an accusation of harassment. Guidelines include making a full electronic recording of the entire time slot during which the volunteers are praying.

Action guide

During the second 40 Days for Life conference in Spain, held in mid-September, the bishop of Orihuela-Alicante, José Ignacio Munilla, presented the book “Qué Decir Cuándo” (“What to Say When”), a complete guide to discussing and offering arguments for the right to life.

The book is based on the personal experience of its authors, Shawn Carney, co-founder and president of 40 Days for Life, and Steve Karlen, campaign director of the prayer movement.

The coordinator for Ibero-America, Lourdes Varela, writes in the introduction that it’s “a practical manual that all defenders of life should have.” The book seeks to understand “the international dialectic positioned by the abortion industry and at the same time order our ideas regarding the fundamental value of human life.”

In the prologue to “Qué Decir Cuándo,” Munilla emphasizes that “in the pro-life cause it’s important to show the confluence between science, reason, and faith.”

According to the Spanish bishop, this is even more relevant because religious faith “does nothing but give clearer insights” to what we can apprehend by pure reason. However, “the relativism of our time has led to obscuring one’s conscience and common sense itself to unexpected limits,” he added.

The book can be ordered in English or Spanish here:

98,316 abortions in 2022

Spain’s Ministry of Health published on Sept. 28 the official statistics for the year 2022, recording a total of 98,316 abortions, which represents an increase of 9.01% compared with 2021.

More than 75% were carried out in private non-hospital centers — businesses where pro-life volunteers pray nearby and offer help to the mothers. According to ministry figures, 75% of the babies were aborted during the first eight weeks of life in the womb, while about 22% were killed from 9-14 weeks’ gestation. 

The number of abortion clinics in Spain has fluctuated in the last decade, although the difference between 2013 and 2022 represents a significant increase, from 198 to 222.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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