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

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.”