Our Lady of the Wayside

Our Lady of the Wayside
Protect Expectant Mothers and Their Babies


Friday 25 June 2010

Symbollic Action at the Gates of Hell

The day of the Marie Stopes’ TV ad, we arranged a peaceful, prayerful vigil outside Marie Stopes House. The day of May 24th dawned, the sun dazzled and the sky was a brilliant mantle blue.
Three of us, Lynne, Sr. Chinedum and I walked onto Whitfield Street, walked towards Marie Stopes House with the intention of starting the vigil. The minute we reached the railings of the building we heard an aggressive man (who we later learned was some kind of security guy) say, ‘Who are you? Are you here to obstruct the entrance to Marie Stopes, are you? You are not allowed.’
‘And who are you?’ asked Lynne.
‘I work for Marie Stopes International, and I’m telling you not to obstruct our building.’
Lynne kept her voice very calm, did not stop setting up for the vigil and pointing to the posh Marie Stopes building, she said,

‘That is Marie Stopes’ building, inside there, we are on the pavement. The pavement is not Marie Stopes'. You are also on the pavement, I can’t tell you to get off the pavement.’
The angry man didn’t say anything in response; we blessed ourselves with holy water from Lourdes, stayed at the first door of the building, and started the Joyful Mysteries. A Marie Stopes side-kick came out and asked the security guy what we were doing there. The side-kick was dressed professionally, but I never learned her job-title, yet her job that day consisted of frog-marching pregnant girls from the street inside the clinic. The street is not owned by Marie Stopes, yet this side-kick started the business of Marie Stopes on the street, by marching up to a woman approaching the building, putting her arms around her in a ring shape, saying ‘you don’t need that thing’, when we tried to put a leaflet in her hands, and would not let her make the choice as to whether tshe wanted to speak with us or not.
The girls would approach the first door, but were frog-marched into the second door. That meant we had to cover the two doors, the first where the girls would approach, and the second where they would enter. Sr. Chinedum stayed at the first door.
Another Volunteer, Mary (like myself) and I went to the second door and finished the first of seven Rosaries, and ten Divine Mercy chaplets.
During our prayer time, a camera crew arrived from a French television station. They received bright smiles from the two Marie Stopes workers, and got a cheesy ‘Hi guys!’. The journalist with the camera crew wanted to interview me, but I declined. It could have been potentially disastrous to do so; during that precious time I was there to offer help and to advise girls, I could have ‘missed’ a girl by wasting time talking to an antagonistic camera crew. I had to be ever vigilant and ready to smile at a girl who at any moment had got the courage to speak to someone who wasn’t death peddling. But also, the Vigil itself is the complete message; praying and offering help speaks volumes, so there was nothing further to communicate to the press.
My refusal to speak to the French crew did not stop them asking at least four more times to interview us, and then pointing their camera five inches from my face. The other Mary had a touch of palpitations when the French camera crew zoomed in like gigantic bugs. For a couple of seconds I stopped praying and said, ‘I’m so nervous about that camera, we can’t do as good a job of talking to the pregnant mothers.’ The other Mary made a very good point in response to this; ‘we live in a society where cameras are everywhere. We are always on camera. But with that guy putting that camera in our faces it’s more obvious.’
After the French camera crew had finally strutted away. We had a small lull and were able to give four girls leaflets without a camera trailing us. Then the BBC came. The atmosphere seemed very cordial between the Marie Stopes workers and the BBC. In the distance, I heard the BBC journalist apologising to the Marie Stopes woman who was marching women into the clinic. And there were warm smiles and handshakes. The BBC filmed us, looked at us with stone faces, but cleared off fast. Meanwhile more people came to pray in front of the clinic, and six women and one man were praying the Rosary.
There was a blessed quarter of an hour when no girls went into the clinic, and we prayed all the harder. The security guy violently thwacked a bottle against the railings as if it was a baton just behind me and the other Mary. Someone working in the building came out, pointed at us and said mockingly, ‘do I need salvation? Look at them!’ ‘Oh yeah! You need salvation all right. What a joke!’ said the woman who was marching the girls in.
Another British camera crew came but didn’t stay long, and didn’t say who they were. A Polish camera crew came, and what dumbfounded me was that the pretty blond reporter gave us a sincere smile, and the cameraman waved at us. They told us that Poland is a very Catholic county, and that praying outside clinics was of great interest to the general population, and that the Polish people would support our vigil. This was almost in stereotypical contrast to the attitudes of both the British and French crews. The Polish crew asked – politely – if they could ask us a few questions. We declined again. The sun was still dazzling, and I had to feel sorry for the many heavily covered Muslim teenage girls who trudged their way into the clinic looking dejected. But they weren’t the only ones suffering the bright grill of the sun, the clinic workers were getting uncomfortable in the sun, and at quarter to one, the woman asked us,
‘Are you going to be here all afternoon? I said are you going to go away at any point?’
At one, we packed up our things and strode out of the street. I gave a fleeting glance to the clinic workers who lingered outside the clinic, they fixed sharp eyes on us to make sure we were leaving. We had visited the gates of hell, but were not staying.

Mary O' Regan

No comments:

Post a Comment

Join Us In Prayer And Fasting