'It's God's picture' -- Forty Days for life kicks off with pro-life photographer, prayer Print
Around the Diocese
Thursday, Sep. 25, 2008 -- 2:10 AM
Get involved with 40 Days

MADISON -- There are still opportunities to get involved with the 40 Days for Life campaign, which began September 24 and will continue through November 2. Make even a small hourly time commitment by calling Amy Hying at 608-698-3877 or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it To see what vigil hours still need coverage, go to

Hear the stories

To listen to audio from the 40 Days for Life kick-off event, including Michael Clancy's story of the photograph and how he found faith, go to and select it from the drop-down under "Audio & Video." Also check out the 40 Days blog at and Web site at

MADISON -- The 40 Days for Life campaign began its ten-day countdown to the start of 40 days of prayer with a kick-off at Reindahl Park in Madison on September 13. The picnic and talks were followed by a walk to the nearby Planned Parenthood clinic on Orin Rd., praying the Rosary for an end to abortion.

The kick-off also featured talks by Amy Hying, who is again coordinating the 40 Days effort this year, Silent No More's Jane Frantz, and photographer and pro-life activist Michael Clancy.

Clancy's talk was the highlight of the event, which despite the soggy weather brought in a small crowd that lined the benches and stood in the doorways of the main shelter at Reindahl Park. Formerly a freelance photographer for the Tennessean of Nashville, Clancy was made famous by a photograph he took in 1999 for the USA Today of an in-utero surgery on a 21-week-old child to correct spina bifida, a birth defect that results in an incompletely formed spinal cord.

Facing the controversy

The photograph has been the source of controversy nearly since it was first shot: questions of whether it was posed and allegations of Life magazine wishing to "buy it to kill it"; reports it had been the center of reporter Matt Drudge's dispute with Fox News over the censorship of his television show; and its use during the congressional debate on partial birth abortion in 2003.

"All I did was take a picture," Clancy said during his talk at the picnic. "People give me credit for it, and I don't deserve it."

Frequently during his talk he spoke of the photograph as being "God's picture." He also spoke of his life experience -- from his youth with abusive and alcoholic parents, to his rebirth in Christ while on assignment at a church in the Appalachians, and the taking of the controversial photograph three months later -- as "God's story."

"I'm just a photographer," Clancy said of his role in the worldwide spread of this pro-life message. He currently operates a Web site,, from which he shares his story and offers the photograph to pro-life groups across the globe.

"I'm answering the call that anyone of you would here today," he said. "You're answering the call that God has put on your heart."

Changing hearts

"To be the photographer that took this picture has been a journey to the edge of insanity," he said. "At times I ask God, 'Why me? What can I do?'

"I want people to see this picture," he said, "because maybe, if I show this picture to another 100 people, someone's heart would be changed, someone's life would be saved."

Forty Days for Life is striving to change people's hearts through the silent presence and prayer for 40 days at the Planned Parenthood Clinic on Madison's east side.

Amy Hying, who is coordinating this year's Madison effort, said that she has seen first-hand the change that can happen to people. Only a few days before the kick-off, Hying had been praying in front of the clinic and a pregnant woman walking past had ripped up one of their Rachel's Vineyard pamphlets and yelled at them. At the kick-off, Hying again saw the woman, who stopped as she was walking past to tell her, "You're doing great things here."

"It's with only one person that our whole culture can change to a culture of life and love -- by that one person being there," she said.

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