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Sunday, 15 December 2013

Pro-Life History: London Pro-Lifers & the Closure of A Marie Stopes Abortuary 1994

A little of London's Pro-Life history, and the closure of a London m*r*e stopes abortuary to encourage you as we continue to hope and pray that more abortion "clinics" in London will close. Join us in prayer here

Sunday Telegraph 27th February 1994: "STOPES SHUTS ABORTION CLINIC"
“After 10 years in the front line of the fight between abortionists and pro-life campaigners, the Marie Stopes clinic in Cricklewood, London closes today”.
 

What joy those headlines were to us pro-lifers in 1994!

On Saturday the 26th February 1994 a small group of regular prayerful protestors who prayed at the Marie Stopes site in Cricklewood arrived to be greeted by a Sunday Telegraph reporter who asked us how we felt about the closure of this facility that same weekend. We did not believe her and we tried not to engage in conversation as this reporter had been particularly difficult with us on previous occasions and had not reported our activities fairly. We tried to get on with the job of praying and counselling but no one was entering the so called clinic. We started to realize that maybe she was telling us the truth and that this place was actually closing. One of our group a Polish lady by the name of Anna gave the reporter a few lines for her article and we carried on praying. Nearly twenty years on and Anna is still praying weekly at Ealing. God bless her efforts.

I started praying at Cricklewood in January 1992. These vigils were organized by PLAN (Pro life Action Network which was later renamed Helpers of God’s Precious Infants) out of our HQ which was the home of faithful prolifers, the Toolan Family and Tamsin Geach ( now Sr. Tamsin OP) They worked hard keeping vigils going at Cricklewood and Buckhurst Hill. It was a time of serious confrontation with the police and regular arrests. This was a very frightening and difficult period. In the early years at Cricklewood, vigils had been kept by wonderful people working mostly alone. It would be difficult to name them all but three I must mention who gave so much for the prolife movement. One was Vincent Grimer who placed a Miraculous Medal in the guttering at this site. He entered religious life and sadly died very young. The second was Maurice Lewis who often spent all night alone in prayer outside Marie Stopes. He also died young in Canada following many harsh imprisonments for his pro-life work both in Britain and Canada, often being kept in solitary confinement. I am sure they have been blessed for all their prayers and good works. The third was Ted Atkinson who was arrested at least 3 times at Cricklewood and has served 17 prison sentences for pro-life activities.

It was common place in the 80’s/early 90’s for there to be regular arrests at the weekly prayer vigil for no reason other than the rosary being prayed and posters displayed that offended the staff who worked there. Many people were arrested in a brutal manner and there were numerous court cases. One such case we all found very amusing was where the prosecution witnesses failed to turn up so the case was thrown out of court to the relief of the defendants. Our prayers were answered.

During this difficult time we pro-lifers were supported and guided by Fr. James Morrow, who gave his whole being to the unborn. I remember several occasions when Fr. bought a mini bus down from Scotland full of faithful Scots to help our vigil at Cricklewood. They drove all through the night to get to London for 7.30am. I remember thinking that they would never be able to stand for so long in the cold after such a journey with no sleep. How wrong I was, they showed us how to do it. What an inspiration they were. Fr. Morrow died on the 18th September 2010. It was a privilege to have known such a man.  Please intercede for us, dear Fr. Morrow, as we pray for you. After our vigil ended we would all go to Holy Mass together and then end up at the local greasy spoon for a much deserved breakfast.

The year before Cricklewood closed we were supported by a group of prolifers who had travelled from the USA to help us. Also 3 Russians came to tell us the repercussions on a nation that has an abortion mentality. One of the Americans was treated very badly and was deported. Our activities were hitting the news headlines daily. Abortion was getting the coverage that was needed to highlight this tragedy. 

We were elated when we realized that Cricklewood had closed and deep down we wanted to say we have done our bit, we will have a rest and not return to an abortuary for a while but we knew this was no way to react after being given such a gift. What was our journey from the Home Counties into London when so many had travelled so far and suffered so much? The following week a Saturday vigil started at Ealing which continues to this day. So many people played a part in the closure of Cricklewood, it was an international effort, but not least of all were people who did not even know where Cricklewood was who prayed for its closure.

There were so many times that we felt our prayers were not being heard and it is only in retrospect that we can now see the fruits of them. When Tamsin Geach announced that she was to enter the convent we felt that our London pro-life activities would fall apart but we were looked after as Theresa Milligan ( an American prolifer who is now Theresa Madden) rode in to save the day. She kept the work going until she was to return to her family in the USA. It was during a retreat at Braemar with Fr. Morrow that Theresa told us she would be leaving us to go home. Again we could not see a future without a leader. On the train journey home from Scotland we were feeling very low and several of us put the O’Doherty family under pressure to take up the baton. Rose and Mick said they did not have the skills to communicate with us or arrange our activities. We convinced them they could and that they had to, otherwise London would come to a halt. No pressure!!!! They said they would hold things together till someone with the skills could be found. They are still doing a magnificent job. Not only did they take over, but with the spiritual help of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and Monsignor Reilly the activities have just grown and grown.

It seemed to me that prolife work became less stressful with the arrival in England of the Franciscans who had a serenity that we needed. Their very presence gave people confidence to come and pray with us. The numbers started to grow. It was at Ealing that it was becoming evident that there was something very important missing in our work and a young woman who was praying there called Clare knew exactly what it was. We would stop and counsel women going into the facility and if we got them to change direction it was down to us to take them away and follow them up with whatever was needed to change their minds. This proved difficult as it was not always practical to take a girl home or spend hours supporting her. It was at this point that Clare started the Good Counsel Network. I do not have the words to describe what she and her co-workers have achieved and we will not know in this life how many babies are alive today due to their work. We all know that what has been accomplished could have only happened through the Grace of God who has worked through so many people doing so many different activities. We are now blessed, thank God with 40 Days for Life; our prayers are continually being answered.
 
Mary Fincham, Helpers of God's Precious Infants
 
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1 comment:

  1. Amazing! Thank you for this. It is very humbling to read a little about the recent history of pro-life activism in London.

    ReplyDelete

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