GLEN ELLYN – Beginning Sept. 25, residents of Glen Ellyn and other nearby communities have gathered outside Aanchor Health Center on Roosevelt Road in Glen Ellyn as part of a local 40 Days for Life anti-abortion campaign.
The Glen Ellyn effort is one of more than 300 grassroots campaigns taking place around the world under the umbrella of the central 40 Days for Life campaign based in Washington, D.C., according to the campaign's website.
While abortion tends to be a national issue, these grassroots campaigns allow participants to reach people at a local level, said Christine Kania, spokesperson for the Glen Ellyn campaign.
More than 250 people have participated in the Glen Ellyn 40 Days for Life so far, including both individuals and groups, said Ava Voissem, Glen Ellyn campaign coordinator. While many come from nearby Christian churches and schools, the campaign is not limited to any one religion.
Aanchor Health Center is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 1186 Roosevelt Road. The center offers abortions and other gynecological and urology services, according to its website.
Aanchor Health Center did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
As part of 40 Days for Life, participants spend time outside abortion clinics, pray, fast and lead community outreach efforts, Voissem said.
In Glen Ellyn, outreach has included praise and worship sessions outside the clinic and a book discussion group.
Another 40 Days for Life campaign is taking place in the Chicago area outside a Planned Parenthood facility in Aurora, according to the central campaign's website.
In a statement released to Suburban Life Media, Planned Parenthood of Illinois President and CEO Carole Brite said that the "protests are designed to intimidate the many patients who seek basic health care services from Planned Parenthood."
"Women should be able to get good health care without fear of violence, harassment or intimidation," Brite said in the statement.
Participants of 40 Days for Life campaigns are expected to follow a series of guidelines as part of a "statement of peace." These include not threatening, physically contacting or verbally abusing clinic employees, volunteers or customers.
"I hope I'm able to change their minds in a loving way – in a loving way. That's very important," Voissem said. "That's the only way you really can change someone's mind." So far, this fall's campaign hasn't experienced any notable conflicts outside Aanchor Health Center.
Voissem said both sides tend to keep to themselves and she hasn't witnessed any negativity from anyone associated with the clinic.
However, the campaign has attracted both negative and positive attention from people driving along Roosevelt Road, she said.
Glen Ellyn 40 Days for Life leaders hope to have a presence outside the center from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. through Nov. 3, the last day of the campaign.
Campaigns typically take place twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall.
Previous efforts have been held in Glen Ellyn in fall 2009, spring 2011 and spring 2013, and Voissem said she hopes to lead another campaign next spring.