Small groups of people plan to hold prayer vigils at the intersection of Helmcken Road and Island Highway for the next 40 days.
Members of Choose Life Victoria are hosting a vigil each day due to abortions performed at the Vancouver Island Women’s Clinic.
“We are praying for women and their unborn children,” said Steve Weatherbe, Choose Life Victoria president. “We are praying for women to change their minds and to keep their babies and deliver them.”
Members are standing outside a 30-metre buffer zone and praying in shifts during business hours of the clinic. “This is not a protest or to scare anyone … it’s a prayer vigil,” Weatherbe said.
A clinic staff member indicated the women’s centre had never had protesters before. Staff declined to comment on the vigil.
At the start of the prayer vigil Wednesday morning, West Shore RCMP officers were on hand investigating vandalism in the clinic parking lot and on the sidewalk of Helmcken Road. The words “Pro Choice,” and “Everyday for Choice” were spraypainted on the sidewalk. The vandalism occurred sometime in the evening of Sept. 27 or early on Wednesday.
Although the Choose Life Victoria members say the vigil is to pray for support for the women, not all groups feel this way.
“I think the tactics they use are meant to intimidate women who have chosen to access a legal medical service, and that is harassment,” said Tara Paterson, spokesperson for the Victoria-based Reproductive Justice Organizing Coalition. “I am appalled it is going on for 40 days, but I am glad it is not everyday.”
Groups from Canada, the U.S., United Kingdom and Australia are taking part in 40 Days for Life Vigil from Sept. 28 to Nov. 6
“These vigils are being held in about 300 cities,” Weatherbe said explaining that the 40 days reference comes from the bible. “Christ spent 40 days in the wilderness.”
Vancouver Island Women’s Clinic offers a variety of women’s sexual health services, including abortion, IUDs and surgical completions after a miscarriage.
Paterson is organizing a counter rally called “rock for reproductive justice” on Oct. 22 at Centennial Square in Victoria in response to 40 Days for Life campaign.
“We hope to broaden the conversation to more than just abortion,” Paterson said. “Reproductive justice includes the right not to have children, the right to have children and the right to parent.”