SAN MATEO — For each rosary bead Rosalinda Lopez's fingers passed, she prayed.
"Have mercy on their souls, particularly, the souls of the unborn about to be aborted," said the 72-year-old Daly City resident, her forehead marked with ash. "Grant them baptism in the name of the father, the son, and of the holy spirit."
Some protesters slowly paced the sidewalk Wednesday outside Planned Parenthood's office on Palm Avenue with signs saying "Women deserve better than abortion." But the office's blinds had been turned down to block the view.
The group stood together on the first day of Lent to begin "40 Days for Life," a nationwide campaign that involves prayer, fasting, vigils and outreach.
The goals of the anti-abortion campaign are to show communities the consequences of abortion and to reach women facing an unexpected pregnancy.
"Killing a child in a womb is unacceptable," said Jessica Munn, chairwoman of San Mateo Pro-Life. "We may not know when life began 50 years ago, but science now knows life begins at conception. Every child should have a chance."
The annual "40 Days for Life" campaign began in Bryan/College Station, Texas, in 2004.
Since then, Munn said, the campaign has resulted in more than 1,000 fewer abortions nationwide because campaigners were able to convince women planning abortions to continue their pregnancy instead.
This year, "40 Days for Life" protests are happening outside Planned
In the Bay Area, vigils are also being held outside Planned Parenthood offices in San Francisco and San Jose.
In San Mateo, anti-abortion advocates will gather in protest from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through April 5.
The peaceful effort comes more than a month after the 36th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision and President Barack Obama's promise to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which hasn't been introduced in Congress yet.
If passed, it would undo legislation that put restrictions on access to abortions.
In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Federal Abortion Ban, which criminalizes abortions in the second trimester of pregnancy.
Munn, a Foster City resident, said support for the anti-abortion movement is growing.
Evidence of that was seen Jan. 24, when about 32,000 people participated in the fifth annual Walk for Life along San Francisco's Embarcadero.
That is up from the 7,000 who participated four years ago, according to a report from the Catholic News Service.
Munn said half of the people in this year's walk seemed to be under the age of 30.
"For one thing, young people don't like to be lied to," the 62-year-old said. "They realized that one-quarter of their generation is gone. That's 50 million people executed in our country for the misfortune of being in a womb at the time. It should be the safest spot."
Maya Ingram, public affairs director for Planned Parenthood-Golden Gate, said people who are anti-abortion "aim at intimidating and harassing the clinic's health care staff and patients taking basic health care services."
Therefore, she said it will continue to ensure women and families are able to access reproductive health care in a safe and caring environment.
She said Planned Parenthood is also seeing a growth in support.
Last November, voters shot down Proposition 4, which would have required doctors to notify a minor's parent or legal guardian 48 hours before performing an abortion.
Two similar ballot measures failed in 2005 and 2006.
Diane, who did not want to give her last name, said Wednesday that it would be sad if Obama signs the Freedom of Choice Act.
"The inroads we've made in the last 35 years would be nullified," said the San Mateo resident. "I pray for the president to have a conversion of heart."
As a member of San Mateo Pro-Life, she has often protested outside the Planned Parenthood clinic on the first Saturday of the month.
"We're not God," she said. "Everybody is here for a reason. You can have a person who might find a cure for AIDS or cancer. We don't see the big picture. God sees the big picture."
Mary Jones of Belmont remembers a friend who had an abortion while in college.
After reconnecting years later, Jones said her friend, who has had three or four children since then, still thinks about never having that "little boy with brown curly hair."
"She said she thinks about that baby every day," said Jones, who has four children, 13 grandchildren and three step-grandchildren.
Her husband, Hugh Jones, said it's going to take will on the woman's part to not seek abortion.
"You can't legislate morals," he said. "Prohibition was an example of that."
For more information on the campaign, visit www.40daysforlife.com.
Reach staff writer Christine Morente at 650-348-4333 or email@example.com.