Balancing job, college and the respect for life

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p_8_tom_pic VESTAL — Leah Chen is a 20-year-old with a mission. The full-time college student and part-time teller is also the local director of the 40 Days for Life Campaign which is making an area abortion clinic a focus of its prayers.

As a middle school student, Chen joined her mother and siblings for prayer at the same clinic. Though her responsibilities to her family, work and college take up most of her time now, she returned to the clinic last year for the weekly prayers of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. She was inspired to invite others to join her there, yet calls to various parishes didn’t bring out volunteers.

“About a month later, I heard about 40 Days for Life from a friend at Broome County Right to Life. It’s funny to think that what I had previously tried to bring to the community was actually a nationwide, organized campaign. The thought that we could bring more people to the Vestal abortion mill was incredibly exciting to me and I offered to organize it,” Leah said.

40 Days for Life now reaches nearly 250 communities. The organization’s web site says it is “a community-based campaign that draws attention to the evil of abortion through the use of a three-point program: prayer and fasting, constant vigil, community outreach.”

Leah said about 300 people are part of the Binghamton-area effort including youth groups, the Franciscan friars, Seton high school students and area parishioners. Some who can’t come to the location offer prayer in their support from their homes. There is nearly 24-hour coverage at the abortion clinic. But there are some days when they need more people to cover all the hours. She finds it’s an “incredibly peaceful place to pray” during late night and early morning hours.

“I’ve been out there on Front Street at around 10 p.m. and it’s very serene and open. I was a bit worried at first, because being out that late can be an issue depending on the location,” she said. “One of the days I’d really like to see more full is Thursdays. That’s when abortions are initially scheduled and performed. It’s very important to be there in the morning as early as 8 a.m. The afternoon is important as well, but by then most of the abortions are done.”

So far, Leah said, at least one woman decided not to have an abortion because of the presence of those praying there. It happened one recent late afternoon. A woman in her 20s got out of her car, walked into the clinic, then returned within a few minutes. Leah said the woman approached the two women who were praying the rosary.

Chen said the woman said, “I saw you guys out here when I came another time and I just wanted to let you know that your prayers have helped me and I’m keeping my baby!’ After assuring the women on the sidewalk that she had all of the resources she needed, she got in her car and drove away.”

“Promptly after this woman left, the entire staff of the abortion mill came out and left as well. On a regular basis, the staff never leave before 5 p.m. Today was an exception,” she said. Others who have had an abortion have been offered information by those in prayer.

“A great part of the community outreach is simply maintaining a presence before the abortion mill. We also provide anyone involved with the campaign with pro-life pamphlets to distribute, rosaries and information concerning the pro-life movement,” she said.

After the campaign comes to an end on April 17, a gathering will follow. A pro-life mixer is planned at Chen’s home parish of Ss. John and Andrew from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on April 28. They’ll use the summer to plan for another 40 Days of Life campaign in the Fall. Chen said they hope to connect with more parishes and include more youth as they broaden the outreach to educate the larger community.

“For the future, I wish to continue devoting my life to protecting the unborn. Whether it’s a profession or volunteered time, I will always continue to look for ways to stay involved.“ Leah said.

For more information on 40 Days for Life please contact leahbchen@gmail.com.

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