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Praying outside an abortion clinic is never boring

Extreme reactions occur occasionally, but the atmosphere is peaceful and the public more supportive than you might think

By on Thursday, 13 October 2011

Praying outside an abortion clinic is never boring

Should you be walking down Tottenham Court Road during the next two weeks, why not spare a moment to visit nearby Bedford Square, and lend a word of support to the members of 40 Days For Life? Better still, stay to pray a while with this new pro-life initiative, currently in the middle of its autumn campaign at one of central London’s busiest abortion sites.

Outside the BPAS clinic, from September 28 to November 6, pro-life Christians are meeting to pray for an end to abortion, and offering help to men and women affected by this sensitive moral issue. Having attended the vigil on several occasions, I am impressed by the fresh and peaceful ethos of 40 Days for Life. Bedford Square is such a genteel place that one is surprised at this unreserved witness to faith. Opposite the doors of the abortion clinic a blue and white banner declares “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you”, while a group of Catholics stand or kneel, praying the rosary and reciting the chaplet of divine mercy.

Why would students and busy professionals take an hour out of their day to brave public derision? Robert Colquhoun brought 40 Days For Life to London. He explains why he decided to fly the flag for the initiative in Britain: “There are several million post-abortive women in Britain who have no avenue for grief. We want to be the catalyst for a huge turnaround.”

It is an ambitious project, comprising of a threefold effort of prayer and fasting, prayerful vigils at abortion sites and community outreach. The campaign runs twice a year for 40 consecutive days. This pro-life effort, rich with biblical meaning, was endorsed by Pope John Paul II, who said that “prayer and fasting constitute the most powerful force in human history”.

Regular attendees at the vigil report that there is more public support for the campaign than might be supposed. While extreme reactions occur occasionally, most are impressed by the gentle persistence of the vigil. Members of the public are quietly challenged to review their opinions of the abortion issue, and receive a handout as they pass. Some stop to show their support or ask questions. Robert explains: “It’s never a boring place. We get abuse but many people are also pro-life and just have no tangible way of expressing it.” Vigil members report people stopping to join in the prayers, thumbs-up being given and one passing man saying “Excellent! Excellent!” 40 Days For Life began their vigils in 2010, and if the pro-life movement in this country is seeing a revival it may be due to their very professional and upbeat approach. As Daniel Blackman, another member of the team, says: “The new generation of human rights campaigners is here: we’re committed, organised, and on the front foot.”

  • John G

    I urge everyone to attend. It is a powerful experience and the prayer really works. So long as you can put up with a few mindless insults and are not put off by the usual mistruths propagated by the Guardian (aggressive Us style tactics-yawn). I admit most of my friends are part of the soi-disant ‘pro-choice’ brigade so I haven’t yet taken more than one or two along with me. Worth it though.

  • Seangough

    Absolutely true John! The only reason I can think for you not to go is that if you go once, you WILL feel compelled to go back, and to do more. If if being a super-fantastic person is not for you, you might want to give 40 days a miss.

  • Anonymous

    I salute you all:

    BUT: Maybe the more heroic initiative for a pro-Life campaign would be to camp outside Eccleston Sq or Ambrosden Ave and pray for the end to Abortions via Connexions in Catholic Schools and an end to Conference-backed euthanasia via the Liverpool Care Pathway. Maybe protesting outside the St John & St Elizabeth hospital? Sometimes it’s so much easier to stand up against an enemy than a friend….

    It’s a thought for the future: Humiliating and embarrassing our Hierarchy until they stopped being part of the problem and mandated an official national forty days for Life or became outspokenly defiantly pro-Life.

    When you can do that?
    Maybe things will truly begin to change.

  • Anonymous

    The impressively peaceful, diligent, Christian witness of the pro-life activists outside abortion clinics is in sharp contrast to the violence done to the child in the womb inside them.  It might seem that demonstrating one’s objections to the gravely evil practice of abortion is a lonely station amid the hostility and indifference of social opinion.  But I think that it is such examples of putting the values of the gospel into action that piques the curiosity of the more open-minded and neutral citizens among us which and leads to a conversion of heart towards the truth of the gospel.

  • Trevor

    It is a superb initiative which even pro-life Baptist such as me are also pleased to take part alongside our Catholic brothers and sisters

  • i pray for life

    40 days for life is a very powerful experience. Yes, thousands of babies die every day and every Christian should be there supporting those women and imploring God for help. See the movie about praying outside the abortion mills:

  • Anonymous

    It’s not just in London. Anyone in Birmingham can and should also get involved at the Calthorpe Clinic in Edgbaston.

  • Londonistar

    I had an abortion in Marie Stopes Tottenham Court Road last year after our baby was diagnosed unviable with a severe abnormaility. It cut me and my husband to pieces particularly as a Catholic. The result of the procedure left me with serious physical problems that required further surgery to put right what MS put wrong. I am extremely glad and so very relieved to learn that you don’t find standing outside this clinic “boring”. I can assure you for those suffering on the inside of the clinic physically and emotionally learning a group of people outside don’t find doing so “boring” as they hand out leaflets to people who also arent’ attending the clinic must be a huge relief.
    I fail to see how anything you are doing is of true christian help to the poor women and couples who find themselves in this ghastly place. I pray that your presence doesn’t push any of those in our particular circumstances over the edge when to be there in the frst place is enough of a trauma and not how they imagined their much wanted pregnancy ending.

    “40 days for life is a very powerful experience”

    This seems to be about you, your grouping rather than about the people on the inside of this horrible clinic.

  • Imogenrbarnett

    Please, leave these poor women alone. Pray at home.

  • Robert

    I wholeheartedly recommend these wonderful people who can help with hope and healing:

  • Anonymous

    Give them a break.

    Yes – Some of the motives and the expressions of the event’s consequences are awkwardly narcissistic; but that isn’t the prime intention of the organisers.

    Sometimes when the situation is so dire, so genocidal and public opinion is so antagonistic; the only thing we can do is run to the cross – hence the absolute necessity of prayer.

    But I have to repeat my previous comment – we should be doing our utmost to change what we can – and one of the most blatant things we truly CAN change is Bishops’ Conference’s conspiracy with the culture of death; but any action against the Catholic powers-that-be to actually be Catholic and become vociferously defiantly pro-Life might have severe consequences for a few among the organisers; whose very livelihood and part of the Westminster scene is enmeshed with keeping on the right side of certain people who would not appreciate being publicly embarrassed.

    Yes the situation is that corrupt and farcical – so for the majority of the young pro-Lifers they prefer to make their nevertheless effective actions and statements where it won’t be peeing on their own doorstep.

  • Anonymous

    As a catholic I am pro life and always take this into consideration when voting at a general election imagine then my dismay when two priests I know admitted to voting for pro abortion candidates at the 2007 general election they lived in different constituncies and both supported candidates who were pro abortion and were elected MP`s. At least one of these priests took part in vigils outside abortion clinics. What is the point of witnessing outside an abortion clinic and then voting for abortion? I have to say that in every other way I admired both priests but just cannot get my head around treir thinking. 

  • Nick

    Life is always better than death.

  • Nick

    Praying outside the abortion mills is more effective to safe babies.

  • Caroline Farrow

    So far at least 4 women have changed their minds and have been given help and support to continue their pregnancy.

    That is not a bad thing.

    How is it harmful for people to know that they are being prayed for? That there is help available for them?

    As for these “poor women” what about those who are being coerced by others into abortion? There are proven cases whereby these vigils and information about support have made the difference between life and death. Not every woman walks into an abortion clinic with a heavy heart and a feeling that they have no other choice. Some are panicked, some are coerced and some are undecided. No-one is pestered, the “saves” that occur tend to be led by the women themselves who often see an escape route or other option on offer.

    It is deeply ironic that prayer, a peaceful act of witness and a beacon of light and hope is subverted into an act of aggression. Poor women indeed, but the babies are equal victims. “Poor women, poor babies”. What drives 40daysforlifecis compassion for mother and baby in equal measure and a desire to stand up against the inhumanity that is abortion. It is an act of witness and love.

  • Imogenrbarnett

    I don’t think prayer is an act of aggression. But I do think many of these women are being coerced into changing their minds. If you can say that a woman has been coerced (persuaded) into it then she can most definitely be coerced (persuaded) out of it. It’s a decision a woman has to make by herself. It’s unfair pressure. It’s something that is none of your business. Busy yourselves improving the lives of women who have already decided to go ahead with difficult and upsetting pregnancies, provide support to them instead of pressure to those who have already made their decision.

  • Jackcarver2009

    None of you should attend, why should to-be parents want to burden themselves with a child if they aren’t ready or don’t want to? Why the hell should any religious cult, even on as unrightfully big as christianity, get any say on what people should do, especially when it comes to their own body!

  • Nick

    Babies are not part of their mother’s bodies.

  • Nick

    Abortion is infanticide. THankfully, there are people who care about babies.

  • Jarmoose

     It is totally inappropriate and insensitive for this kind of thing to be going on outside the clinic. Perhaps you may change a mind or two, but you could do this in a way that is not distressing for the women who have just had to make one of the most difficult decisions of their lives. Also, you paint it up as prayer and bring in religious justification to make what you are doing sound enlightened, when what you are in fact doing is intimidating and detrimental to the mental health of already vulnerable and distressed women. Perhaps, a better way to avoid abortions is to better educate your children on contraception, or is that in conflict with your religious beliefs too?

  • Nick

    Praying outside abortion mills is also good for the women. Every women that changes her mind will be spared the psychiatric problems that often follow abortion.

    And research has found no corrlelation between more contraception and less abortion. IN fact, it is the opposite – places with more contraception, such as New York, are by far the places with more abortion. This can be explained by the “promiscuous sex is harmless, do it!” culture that contraception creates.

  • Jackcarver2009

    Are you retarded? They are growing inside the woman and are connected by an umbilical cord, babies are, of course, a part of the mothers body.

  • Anonymous

    “…any action against the Catholic powers-that-be to actually be
    Catholic and become vociferously defiantly pro-Life might have severe
    consequences for a few among the organisers; whose very livelihood and
    part of the Westminster scene is enmeshed with keeping on the right side
    of certain people who would not appreciate being publicly embarrassed”.

    Catholics, be Catholic ? That would never do. Aren’t unpleasant consequences a risk that comes with the turf ? It’s notoriously easy for those not taking any risk to criticise those who might be, but even so… If bishops, regardless of they are, fail conspicuously to believe or act as they should, surely they must be criticised; if need be, by their subordinates, & to their faces. Catholics are not in danger of imprisonment or death for criticising those in authority who deserve it.   Maybe a risk of being embarrased also goes with doing certain things or holding certain positions. It ought to be possible to be honest, forthright, critical, prudent, gracious, effective & discreet: as per Matthew 18: 15 ff.

    It sounds as though there is a danger that people may be hindered by human respect (which is not a virtue). The lives of the unborn matter more than the egos of (say) bishops, whether cardinals or not; *if* they won’t do the right thing, and fail to encourage others to do so  – let them be embarrassed; they should be. And if bishops are not the offenders – it should be less risky to criticise their subordinates, not more.

    From what you say, the situation is indeed corrupt.

  • Anonymous

    The problem with abortion is that anytime it is mentioned any common-sense is thrown out of
    the window.

    Two entirely en-trenched groups exchanging the usual talking points, everyone is shouting but no-one is listening.

    I was going to throw in my point of view, but I really have no intention of being in the middle of a flame-war.

    However, IF there are people interested in constructive dialogue between the different points of view they I would like to give some advice:

    Please do not use the word baby. ‘Foetus’, ‘developing-baby’, ‘potential baby’, ‘life’ all make sense. And abortion certainly CAN be argued against on these terms.

    A child is different from an adult, is different from an old-man. Let’s not speak in false terminology as it creates a dishonest argument.
    (The majority of abortions do NOT occur late-term, so the argument for using baby is very weak. If the argument is SPECIFICALLY about late term abortion then perhaps you could get away with it – but not simply abortion in general.)

    Please do not talk in terms of the woman’s ‘body’. This is totally irrelevant to what we are talking about. I don’t deny the trauma of having a baby, nor the importance of health. But surely this is a sideshow. We are trying to decide questions of the value of life, and when or whether it is acceptable to terminate a living
    being – that will grow into a baby.

    Finally please have the sense to see things in wider terms then simply black and white. I implore you ALL to listen to the arguments of others, and to try and see it through their eyes. If you have not had an abortion, imagine having had one. If you are Christian, imagine you have no spiritual belief. If you are atheist imagine it from a Christian perspective… and so forth.
    Remaining blinkered is easy and self-fulfilling, but it does not help us work out what is right.

    An argument for the sake of it is an unproductive waste of our lives – lets not descend into it.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe you are the one who is a little hard of thinking.  The child is the womb is still connected by an umbilical cord for the purpose of nourishment etc but he/she is still a separate human in the sense that they are not conjoined with their mother .

  • maryp

     The pressure to bear on these poor women is not wrought by praying witnesses but by society in general, partners and families. Thanks be to God for these people if they change the mind of one poor woman.

  • Peter

    Carry on Caroline!  The babies in heaven are rooting for you and all pro-life persons.

  • Anonymous

    explain the numerous US ‘abstinence-only’ sex-ed programs that constantly result in higher pregnancies per school year, than sex-ed that also talks about contraception. (even running side-by-side in the same state)

    explain the Netherlands – high usage of contraception, explicit and thorough sex-ed, and one of the lowest abortion rates in the world?

    explain the Philippines, which has an abortion rate around 3/4 times that of the Netherlands, and has low usage of contraceptives, and in which abortion is actually illegal!

    The Philippines has therefore more abortion deaths, AND more deaths resulting from back-street abortions – even though it is illegal. In keeping the status quo more babies, and vulnerable (and from the stats very poor) women die. Regardless of your view on abortion itself – tell me is this a better outcome or not?

    Nick I will be honest – the conclusion I first came to regarding contraception was the very same as you. However I have researched the topic (with an open mind) and found different answers to what I expected. If you search websites and papers that are not neutral in their viewpoint you will constantly read of the cases that fit your mindset – therefore convincing you of your assumptions.
       I am not saying that in every single case contraception reduces pregnancies and abortion-rates, no you can find some exceptions, but for the most part it is a very strong trend towards that.

  • Anonymous

    come on Jack I am ‘pro’ abortion but I don’t resort to the ‘body’ crap. We are talking about a living thing, and discussing at what point, or whether it is right to kill that thing.
    At some stages in gestation, and for some reasons I think we can justify abortion. But to say it is anything much to do with a woman’s ‘body’ is nonsensical.

  • Nick

    My data shows otherwise.

    Now, I simply don’t have time to ask for your data and refute it.

  • Abrat1016

    You are right about these distressed women making one of the most difficult decsions in their life…abortion.
    Praying outside these clinics is so much better than those pro-liferes with their posters, and shouting out “murder”. They seem so full of hate.
    To reach the woman with love and compassion IS to also reach the child.
    To save the child is to save the woman years of depression, self-hate, guilt, and so many more negative and destroying emotions she will endure.
    No one knows how abortion will affect them…lest of all the mother

  • Mysteries Hastings

    We don’t put pressure on women. at Maidstone East, we stand on the kerb opposite the Marie Stopes abortion facility and pray. 
    I’ve noticed an interesting thing that God has done since i started joining this prayer; He’s sent girls to me who feel pressured to let their babies be aborted. One girl told me that 3 different doctors on 3 different occasions asked her if she were sure she wanted to go on with the pregnancy and what about her studies. Hers is a very much wanted baby, and she just needed reassurance from me. Of course, once you’ve reassured a girl/woman, you have to follow through and help them once their baby is born, not take over in any way, but provide material things, apply for grants, visit if invited, be ready to accept the invitation to babysit once the baby is weaned and so on.

  • Honeybadger

    Poor, poor women indeed! They need prayers, which is why people give up their time, creature comforts to give it to letting these women know that ALL LIFE IS WORTH LIVING and that they are NOT ALONE and THERE IS PRACTICAL SUPPORT OUT THERE!

    What about the poor unborn babies who are to suffer a violent, heinous death in what is supposed to be the safest place!

    Poor, poor lost potential, lost skill, lost talent and lost relevant place in the world!

    Poor, poor lost, priceless love.

  • Honeybadger

    Indeed, Caroline! You and all out there are doing great.

    You have our prayers.

  • Honeybadger

    You still don’t get it, do you?

  • Honeybadger

    Now THAT’s just so, so beautiful what you did.

    May Almighty God and Our Lady of Guadaloupe love and protect you all.

  • araceli lorayes

    This is Araceli from the Philippines. Since abortion is illegal, there is no way of knowing exactly how many abortions are committed. Who will confess to committing a crime? The reporting is very imperfect, so the statistics you quote are extrapolations based on guesses.

  • Diane

    You are in no way correct in what your saying. The word idiot springs to my mind! Damn right is a tough descision …it’s murder, brutal murder of the infant in the safest place it should ever be!! As a woman a pro LIFE believer I am sick tothe back bone of you pro choicers encouraging the cause for this heinous brutal murder of the infant!! We WILL continue to freverently pray, and pray and pray and pray. Accept that

  • Mary

    I read with deep sorrow of your experiences in 2010. I am so sorry that you suffered so much. The teaching of the Catholic Church is always the most humane teaching; it shows us the road which will hurt us less. That is why every woman should go to her priest BEFORE accepting and obeying any doctor. in this way she will protect herself from misguided advice which leads to the horrors you describe so vividly. For those who have been wronged in the way in which you and your husband were wronged, we heartily recommend, and for catholics, the healing and forgiveness of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. May God always bless and keep you both.

  • Charlotte K

    I’ve recently taken my friend to this clinic
    trust me, they do not stand out there and ‘pray’
    They literally said to my friend (with no attacks) ‘lady why are you killing your baby’
    this isn’t praying
    or offering support
    it’s amazing how fast these people stop offering you love and support when they realise they’re not changing your mind.

  • Jane

    Londonistar, how are you? Please know that all can be well again for you and for your husband through the ministry of a Catholic priest.
    To all women advised by doctors that their unborn children are unviable and should be killed: PLEASE seek the advice of a pro-life agency. There is no need for anyone to suffer as Londonistar suffered. Nature has its own was of releasing the `unviable` into eternity; it is a non-violent and loving way, which leaves us all without regrets, injuries or psychological damage.