Our Lady of the Wayside

Our Lady of the Wayside
Protect Expectant Mothers and Their Babies


Saturday 29 May 2021

London Abortion Centre Closes After Nearly 11 Years of Daily Prayer Vigils

Marie Stopes Flagship, central London abortion centre closed down yesterday, Friday 28th May. The 5 storey building in the heart of London’s Fitzrovia, named Marie Stopes House closed it’s doors on abortion just after noon, and sent its - now redundant - staff home with doughnuts and flowers.

Regular pro-life vigils began at this site in 2010. The first '40 Days for Life' Campaign in the UK began at Marie Stopes, Whitfield Street. The Good Counsel Network (GCN) had been working with Robert Colquhoun to get this off the ground. We had suggested this particular location to 40 Days because it was the Marie Stopes ‘flagship’ building. The building is the 'first descendant' of her first 'Birth Control Centre' in Holloway, London, which moved to Whitfield Street in 1925.

We also suggested Whitfield Street as the site for the first UK 40 Days Campaign because unlike the other abortion centres in London (there were 7 major abortion centres back then as opposed to a few dozen small ones now) this one had never had a regular pro-life vigil.

There was a large Helpers of God’s Precious Infants/Youth 2000 Vigil at the site on 28 December 2000 and over the years a few caring souls stopped there to pray a Rosary for mums of babies when they could.  The aim now was to establish a regular presence offering women alternatives to abortion.

The 40 Days Vigil, managed spectacularly by the wonderful Poppy, whose job it was to fill the schedule, went extremely well.  Several women changed their minds and kept their babies.

At the end of the 40 Days Campaign, GCN decided that in order to serve other women in need, we needed to have a presence there every day if possible and the daily vigil was born. This meant we would be there all year round offering women help and support.

The next Whitfield Street '40 Days' was a 24 hour vigil. One of GCN’s volunteers, Annabel, was working 25 hours a day to fill the schedule, and managed to against tremendous odds. We wrote here about this 40 Days Campaign and its stories, which involved reciting the Litany for Life at 7am surrounded by medical students from the building opposite the Marie Stopes Centre (Student Halls of Residence) who were sent out into the cold in their pyjamas by the fire alarm drill in their building.

The students had plenty of fun mocking our vigil too.

But we had the last laugh; the students were first years who arrived mid-September to find a 24 hour 40 Days vigil on their doorstep. When the vigil finished at midnight on the last day, the students opened their windows and blared “Bye bye baby” by the Bay City Rollers out at us. They cheered as we packed up and went home, glad to see the back of us. When they woke up the next morning our normal daily vigil was up and running. They stared at us crestfallen! 

Another thing we have never blogged about is how during one of several 40 Days at Whitfield Street Marie Stopes were doing internal building work. The builders often arrived very early, so Marie Stopes staff started leaving the clinic front door key in the flowerpot on the doorstep for the builders to let themselves in.

I kid you not - an abortion provider was leaving its front door key in a flowerpot on the doorstep overnight. And they were doing this during a 40 Days for Life Vigil, you know, with those allegedly violent, harassing pro-lifers standing opposite, observing.

It became a running joke between ourselves and the builders that the key was being left. And yet no pro-lifer ever interfered in any way with the abortion centre.

Many people witnessed this practise of leaving the key there. And we do have some photos. I will share one here of the key in the flowerpot. I’m sorry to report that yes, this is genuine, and yes the keyring is appropriately tasteless.

During our 11 years of praying at this site, we have been able to offer help to tens of thousands of women and provide ongoing support to many including Alina and Aurelia, who have shared their stories publicly. 

We have had to assist some women to seek hospital treatment for a variety of problems after their treatment here, including at least one case of missed ectopic pregnancy which ruptured after the woman left the centre.  We have also met many women who regretted taking the first abortion pill and were desperately hoping they could still carry their baby to term.

In recent years some Marie Stopes Staff have come to us seeking help to find alternative jobs. They told us they thought the job with MS would involve helping vulnerable pregnant women who were aborting because of difficult situations but found that they were often facing abusive clients with aggressive partners, and that there was a big focus on money rather than on client health or staff wellbeing.

Thankfully these staff were able to get out and get work.

They told us this branch may close soon. That was the beginning of the hopeful whisper ‘This branch may close soon!’ It echoed around our heads for probably 3 long years before it became a positive statement.

For a few years now we have been praying to GK Chesterton for the closure of this and other clinics.

In October 2017, the relics of Jacinta and Francisco were brought to the vigil.

In 2018 we held a 9 day novena of prayer and witness outside Marie Stopes, including a Eucharistic Procession to the abortion centre. We were joined over the 9 days by 29 priests and 1 deacon, and on the final day, the Feast of Our Lady, Mother of Good Counsel with Fr Stephen Boyle offering Mass in thanksgiving for the closure of this abortion centre (although it was not yet closed…)

There are some who will point to new MSI centres springing up like weeds as a reason why we should not rejoice at the closure of this centre. But we do rejoice, for the Mothers and children who have been hurt and killed there. And because we see the rush to open as many little centres as they can as what it is; a desperate attempt to increase the number of abortions and to reduce costs in an "industry" that has trouble recruiting and retaining staff at every level.

But for those who doubt God's hand in the closure of this centre, this is how we heard the news that the centre would close on Friday:

On Tuesday the following conversation appeared on our staff message group.  

Staff member Marco “Photographer is here at Marie Stopes taking photos of the building. It’s for an estate agents. I decided to stand aside in case they thought I came with the building”

Me: Lol! I really hope that is why he’s taking photos.

Marco: It is definitely no doubt. He is here on behalf of Chestertons Estate Agents. And the locals are all saying the staff have been made redundant Friday is their last day.

Me: Wow! Please God that’s all true. Chestertons Estate agents is that for real? You know they were actually owned by his GK Chesterton’s family (though they aren’t now).

Marco: Gosh I hadn’t even thought of what I was saying.

J: Google says its permanently closed.

Marco: I’m even flying the flag today (*attaches picture of his jacket*, see below)

Badge of Frances Chesterton, wife of G.K. Chesterton.

This is how we heard the news of the closing of the Whitfield St Abortion Centre.

By the way did I mention that Friday 28 May is the ‘Vigil’ of Chesterton’s Birthday? Meaning Whitfield Street will wake to an abortion free day, today - on GK’s Birthday.

A huge thank you to all the faithful staff, volunteers, vigil leaders, especially Siobhán the current Vigil leader, and all the Priests, religious, sisters and faithful pray-ers who have prayed and worked for the closure of this centre.

Gilbert & Frances Chesterton, pray for England, for the end of abortion and pray for us! Amen.

Clare McCullough

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