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Abortion protesters start 40-day vigil near Mayo Clinic's Methodist Hospital

Protesters have begun a 40-day, Lenten prayer vigil near Mayo Clinic, expressing concern about abortions performed at Rochester Methodist Hospital in Rochester.

So far, only one or two people have been present, and sometimes there's been no one. But plans include a continued presence whenever possible throughout Lent.

"I was there today, praying in front of the clinic a little bit," the Rev. Matt Fasnacht of St. Bernard's Catholic Church in Stewartville said Wednesday.

There were 251 abortions performed in Olmsted County in 2010, Fasnacht said.

The national organization " 40 Days for Life " met with Mayo Clinic and city officials, Fastnacht said, and the national organization agreed to abide by Mayo's request that protesters would not march directly in front of Rochester Methodist, but rather across the street on the sidewalk in front of Jimmy John's and Caribou Coffee.

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Vigils are being held 24 hours a day at 273 sites across the country, Fasnacht said. Protesters pray for an end to abortion, he said.

Methodist is "the only place where abortions happen in the Diocese (of Winona) that I know of," Fasnacht said.

"Mayo Clinic has a long-held policy that the matter of abortion is a private decision to be made by a patient and her physician," the clinic says in a statement. "We believe that little would be gained from sustaining a debate on this issue."

Fastnacht said that shows that Mayo will look bad, regardless of the position it takes.

"They don't want to bring it up, because it's bad PR," he said.

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