40 Days for Life vigil campaign Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Kat Wagner, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Oct. 06, 2011 -- 12:00 AM
Dr. Nancy Fredericks, an anaesthesiologist at the Madison Surgery Center, speaks at the 40 Days for Life kick-off event September 27. (Catholic Herald photo/Kat Wagner) To view or purchase photos from this event go to:

MADISON -- The 40 Days for Life vigil kicked off with a meeting September 27 and talk by a local pro-lifer who was instrumental in the eventual defeat of the abortion plans at the Madison Surgery Center.

The potluck dinner and speaker event took place the night before the official opening of the vigil, which will run from September 28 to Sunday, Nov. 6, on the sidewalk in front of Madison’s abortion facility at the Planned Parenthood on Orin Rd. The annual vigil takes place in conjunction with vigils around the world, all in an effort to end abortion through prayer and fasting.

Rising to the occasion

This year, the 40 Days vigils around the state have been seeing a slow turnout in volunteers, even though some vigils operate only during the daylight hours. Madison’s vigil, which continues throughout the day and night, takes considerably more involvement but continues to have support from the pro-life community. As the vigil went into the first weekend, however, there were concerns the calendar would not be filled.

“To go 24 hours a day for 40 days takes a monumental effort,” Steve Karlen, Vigil for Life co-director with his wife Laura, said as he introduced the evening’s speakers at the kick-off. “It will take an extreme effort to just get through the weekend.”

But get through it they did, relying on volunteers to recruit other pro-lifers willing to take an hour or two throughout the weekend. The schedule continues to look sparse, and Laura Karlen said that the need continues for people to step up and respond to the call.

“We really always had that maximum sacrifice of the 24 hour vigil,” she said. “We don’t want to surrender the ground; we want to have that full commitment to praying for life.

“I’m completely trusting in God that people will lend that helping hand, that people will rise to the occasion, because this is a Holy Spirit thing,” she said.

Fighting through prayer

The persistence of the pro-life community has been demonstrated many times in the past, most notably with the abandonment of plans to perform second-trimester abortions at the Madison Surgery Center at 1 S. Park St. in Madison. MSC is co-owned by UW Hospital and Clinics, UW Medical Foundation, and Meriter Hospital.

At the beginning of 2010, news was leaked that the organizations were considering the abortion procedures at MSC, and were even approved by the clinic’s board. But a consistent presence of pro-lifer advocates, prayer, and community activism helped to put the plans to rest. After two years of protests outside the building, a 40-day prayerful vigil, and a regular pro-life presence, officials cited as the reason for the plan’s abandonment a concern for their ability “to guarantee the safety and security” of their patients.

Dr. Nancy Fredericks, an anesthesiologist at the MSC who had helped reveal news of the proposed plan with help from the Alliance Defense Fund in January 2009, spoke at the vigil kick-off of her experience inside the building and how it strengthened her pro-life views.

When she was presented with the plan at a meeting in late 2008 and was “shocked, dismayed, and horrified” at the idea, she knew she could turn to the pro-life community.

“Your prior work was extremely important in how I responded to the news in that office that day,” she said. “I knew you would respond and it made me say that it would not go unnoticed here in Madison.”

The response was “stunning,” she said, and gave hope to those in the building.

“Your prayers, your presence, the pressure you applied financially, all of your phone calls, your petitions, your moving your appointments — all of these things were key parts in defeating this plan,” she said. “Sometimes my confidence flagged, and so I was so happy you were there, standing in the gap praying. So I hope this encourages you to keep praying.”

Get involved

Hours are still available for volunteers to take time in prayer outside the Planned Parenthood Clinic on Orin Rd. on the east side of Madison. To sign up or learn more about the vigil, go online to or contact Laura Karlen at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 608-445-2064.

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