Comedian Rodney Dangerfield made a career out of the line, “I get no respect.” Archaeologists can identify with his lament. If asked to name an archaeologist, most people would probably say Indiana Jones, with Harrison Ford running a close second. Perhaps it’s because archeologists work for dirt, or at least in it. But their digs help us to understand our past, and that’s valuable.
In 1997, an archeological team dug into a Bible story we learned as kids: the fall of the fortress city of Jericho. As Joshua led the Israelites into Canaan, God ordered an unusual battle plan. Every day for six days, the warriors, priests, and people marched once around Jericho’s walls. On the seventh day they circled seven times. On Joshua’s signal, horns sounded and the people raised a mighty shout. The walls came tumbling down. Plausible? The team thinks so. They found a series of walls that would have protected the city. But they also found rubble from a collapsed mudbrick wall forming a ramp up and over the retaining wall. Within the city were stores of unused grain, evidence that the siege was relatively quick. And there was earthquake activity in the area; God’s timing is impeccable. Whatever way Jericho fell, the lesson of Joshua is that God will find a way to reward His faithful people people.
Cities are no longer built as fortresses. But fortresses aren’t merely the stuff of brick and mortar. One of our biggest fortresses in our culture is the abortion industry. Led by Planned Parenthood, which alone does one quarter of all U.S. abortions, the abortion industry sells death. In 2008-09 PP collected almost $115 million in abortion revenue, about 33 percent of its annual income. During that the same period, Planned Parenthood received $363 million in federal and state grants, more double what it received in 1998. Legal abortion’s position within our culture is heavy guarded. Last year President Obama threatened to shut down the entire federal government if Congress refused to fund Planned Parenthood. And after promising that no taxpayer money would be used to fund abortions under his healthcare bill, the President now promises to veto legislation that would hold him to it. The walls of Jericho had nothing on the walls protecting Planned Parenthood .
But those walls aren’t impregnable. This past July, pro-life organization Americans United for Life issued a blistering report documenting a multitude of abuses by Planned Parenthood. Combing through 20 years of records, AUL found that PP has overbilled millions to the Medicaid program. In California alone, there were $180 million in excess billings over six years. Planned Parenthood has been repeatedly stung in videotaped undercover operations showing how it hides the sexual abuse and sex trafficking of minors. It refuses to comply with, and actively lobbies against, parental involvement laws. It opposes as too expensive legislative efforts to provide medical safeguards for women. It overprescribes the dangerous abortion drug RU 486 and misleads women about so called-emergency contraception medication. Based on the AUL report, the U.S. House has begun an inquiry of Planned Parenthood’s operations, and states have started to defund it.
But far more than financing and politics are at work. Unwilling to remain part of the death machine, in 2009 Abby Johnson stunned Planned Parenthood by resigning as director of a Texas clinic. Planned Parenthood sued to keep her quiet. It lost, and since then Johnson has been anything but quiet. Now a pro-life activist, she has identified Planned Parenthood’s Achilles heel: clinic workers who desperately want out. Slowly but surely, it is happening. In May, Ramona Trevino resigned as manager of now-closed Planned Parenthood abortion-referral center in Texas. In Boston, Catherine Adair has resigned as a PP clinic worker. Their compelling stories are bound together by a common thread. They could no longer stand their complicity in the lies and the death. Two more clinic workers have now resigned in Texas.
These women had help in leaving, help of a spiritual kind. In 1998, David Bereit organized a group of churches protesting the coming of a Planned Parenthood facility in his town. By 2004, he founded 40 Days for Life, a coordinated effort of prayer, fasting, peaceful vigils at clinics, and community outreach. Today, 40 Days for Life conducts spring and fall campaigns in 337 cities across all 50 states as well as in Canada, England, Australia, Northern Ireland, and Denmark. Over 400,000 people from 13,000 church congregations of all denominations have participated. The campaign is credited with saving over 4,300 lives, closing fourteen clinics, and empowering 53 clinic workers to quit their jobs.
The 40 Days campaigns are well organized, but in a way they are nothing new. For years, warriors have taken to the sidewalks to do battle against the madness of legal abortion. Their ages span the decades of life. Their weapons are Bibles and rosaries. Their tactics are basic: they walk, stand, and kneel. They counsel women. But mostly, they pray. Their efforts speak to the power of direct communication with God. Abby Johnson and Ramona Trevino felt the power of prayer coming from those who stood outside their facilities. In time, they realized that those prayer warriors, not Planned Parenthood, had their best interests at heart.
Abby Johnson recently said: “It isn’t just enough to pray at home anymore.” We must go to the clinics, “even at night,” because “you never know whose life you’re going to touch. You never know who is waiting to hear those words of hope from you, that life-saving message.” Legal abortion is not just a spring and fall evil. We must be year-round warriors, circling the walls as long as it takes. We all have clinics near us. And we have time enough to pray. We need to provide help. We need to provide hope. We need to provide the shout.
God’s timing is impeccable. Maybe we’ll be there when the walls come tumbling down.