With an annual pro-life outreach set to begin this week, volunteers gathered Sept. 17 to prepare for a kickoff gathering in front of a Philadelphia abortion clinic.

Obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Monique Ruberu, leader of Philadelphia’s “40 Days for Life” campaign, instructed some 20 participants in communicating abortion alternatives through respectful dialogue and witness to church teaching.

The socially distanced session — which took place in the parking lot of the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul — was a primer for a Sept. 23 vigil at Planned Parenthood in Center City.

The 7 p.m. event will feature keynote speaker Matt Britton, who serves as general counsel of 40 Days for Life.

Founded in 2004, the international movement advocates for an end to abortion through prayer, fasting, vigils and community outreach.

For first-timers at the upcoming vigil, the key thing is to remain “peaceful and prayerful,” and not to be nervous, said Tom Stevens, president and CEO of the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia, who was on hand for last Thursday’s workshop.

“We’re here to help, and it’s a very good thing that we’re doing,” said Stevens, noting that “more than 16,000 babies are aborted every year in the five-county Philadelphia area.”

Some 38% of abortions in Philadelphia are of unborn Black children, he added.

“When we talk about racial injustice, you’re destroying black lives and entire generations” through abortion on demand, said Stevens.

A turning point in the decision to publicly advocate against abortion is often “an understanding that … this really is a baby inside a mother’s womb, and somebody needs to do something,” he said.

Hearing “a couple of stories of people who have changed their minds” has a powerful impact on those who may be uncertain as to their stance on abortion, Stevens said.

Even when clients proceed past demonstrators into the abortion clinic, he noted, sidewalk vigils are still worth undertaking.

“At least we’re there to pray for that baby and their mom,” said Stevens. “This is a baby’s last moment perhaps, and there’s a mom who’s going through a tragic experience that she will suffer from probably for the rest of her life. It’s worth being there for that.”

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40 Days for Life will launch its annual fall campaign Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. with a vigil in front of Planned Parenthood, 1144 Locust Street, Philadelphia. For more information, visit the 40 Days for Life website.