By Emily Benson, Catholic News Service
QUEENSBURY, N.Y. — Monday through Friday, Marcia Brown stands outside Planned Parenthood on Bay Road in Queensbury.
For upward of six hours a day, Brown holds a sign with a very powerful message — a piece of her life story she struggled with for years — that reads: “I regret my abortion.”
“I’ve been (standing there) for quite a few years,” Brown said. The Hudson Falls native said that since she began holding the sign, dozens of young women and girls have stopped to talk to her about her story.
A few months ago, Brown was approached by a young woman outside Planned Parenthood to talk about her unplanned pregnancy. A few weeks ago, she came back to visit Brown again. She took out her phone and showed Brown photos of her baby girl, Ann Marie, who was born in May.
“She said, ‘I saw your sign and it changed my mind,'” Brown explained through tears. The girl said “she’s alive today” because of Brown’s message.
“I’m so happy for her,” Brown told The Evangelist, Albany’s diocesan newspaper. “She doesn’t have to regret those feelings. You don’t know it until you’ve done it.”
Just like Brown, hundreds of Catholics around the Diocese of Albany are standing outside their local Planned Parenthood locations as part of the 40 Days for Life campaign, a national, community-based movement to end abortion in dioceses and communities around the country.
The campaign — which started Sept. 23 and runs through Nov. 1 — has been a place for women and men to come together in support of ending abortion. Campaigns are currently scheduled for Clifton Park, Albany, Schenectady, Queensbury and Hudson.
Despite COVID-19, Catholics are sure that with proper safety measures — such as masks and social distancing — the 40 Days for Life campaigns can be held as scheduled.
“I never thought this wasn’t going to happen,” said John O’Brien, leader of the Queensbury campaign. “There’s common sense in the North Country, and we’re outdoors in fresh air so that won’t be an issue.”
Throughout the campaign’s 40 days, volunteers are called to pray and fast, participate in public vigils outside Planned Parenthoods and reach out to the community to bring awareness to the fight against abortion.
“This year’s campaign will run the same way we have in the past,” said Craig Paczkowski, leader for the 40 Days campaign in Hudson. “Prayer participants are encouraged to sign up for vigil hours online if possible. This allows others who have more flexibility to come during times that are less covered.”
Paczkowski also is “encouraging prayer participants to wear a mask while praying and/or maintain at least 6 feet of social distance for the safety of others.”
Some participants in Hudson have mixed feelings on being out during the pandemic: “Many are feeling very good about coming out in person, especially with masks, but some are still hesitant. Being outdoors helps a lot, but prayer works from anywhere too!” Paczkowski said.
O’Brien has heard “no concerns” from the volunteers, adding that people can always “pray from a distance” at home.
Like many volunteers, Brown knows standing outside a Planned Parenthood gives her a chance to help women facing an unwanted pregnancy just like she did at a young age.
At 15, Brown had become pregnant with her first child. She married her baby’s father, and in three years’ time, had two more children.
“I had three babies before I was 18 years old,” she said. “That’s where I was at when I got pregnant again.” After becoming pregnant with her fourth child, Brown could only describe the feeling as overwhelming: “I already had three babies and I was just a kid myself.”
After her abortion, Brown struggled with anger issues but didn’t understand why. It wasn’t until years later when she started attending Bible study that she started to unpack her feelings. “I knew the Lord had forgiven me, but I didn’t forgive myself, that’s why I was angry,” she said.
Brown now prays that any women in need of counseling after an abortion seek it out. The Albany Diocese offers counseling through programs for women, such as Rachel’s Vineyard, which focuses on dealing with the aftermath of having an abortion. “I never seeked help or told anyone,” added Brown. “If I had, things would have been different.”
In 2013, Brown felt God calling her to share her story and began standing outside the Glens Falls Planned Parenthood location; it moved to its current location on Bay Road in 2016.
Brown added her sign after discovering the “Silent No More Awareness Campaign,” where women can speak out about the impact abortion had on their lives.
“She’s just a hero,” O’Brien said. “I’ll never forget I came after a workday and she was holding that sign.”
“When God asks you to do something, it blesses my heart,” Brown said. “And what I want for him is to be glorified. He is loving and kind, patient and forgiving. I feel blessed.”