Sunday, 3 March 2013

Praying with 40 Days for Life

Today a friend and fellow pro-life group member and I travelled up to London to take part of the 40 Days for Life vigil outside of the BPAS centre in Bedford Square. For those of you who don't know or have never been 40 Days for Life is a peaceful campaign of prayer outside of abortion clinics and centres, like BPAS, that refer women for abortions which takes place in various locations across the country as well as all over the world. One thing that I have found is that people assume that this sort of pro-life outreach is very aggressive, lots of shouting and banner waving and generally trying to force their view upon others but this couldn't be further from the truth. The vigil is peaceful and prayerful, those volunteers who come along do so out of a love for those who are going through a crisis pregnancy as well as their unborn children (as well as those who have previously had abortions) and do not want to cause them any additional distress. What we have discovered as a group from talking to people who have had abortions is that they, more often not, felt as though they had no choice; their partner/boyfriend/husband was pressuring them to do it, their parents were ashamed and wanted them to abort, they were faced with difficulties at work which pushed them to do it. They had no one listen to what they wanted (sometimes they weren't even asked!) and even though they know that things like adoption exist, in that time of stress and panic they chose what felt as though it was the only way out, a decision they now regret. What the campaign aims to do is to show women that there are other options; if they don't want the baby they can choose adoption, if they feel that they can't financially support a child there are many, many ways to do this now, if they are facing abusive situations they can be helped to get out of them, if they are alone then there are lots of people who can help support them and if they have had an abortion in the past or have been affected by one they can be put in touch with a counsellor to help them to deal with this loss. The volunteers don't approach people as they enter but stand quietly over the road, praying the rosary and similar prayers. If someone comes up and speaks to us we do, of course, speak to them but we don't try to stop people entering the centres. We pray for them amongst ourselves. There are the odd hecklers (there were three when I was up there on Friday) but mostly people look but pass on by.

I feel I now have to blog about something that happened later on which is not part of the campaign but does worth mentioning. I apologise for my poor retelling of this but I hope you can see why I wanted to relate it. After our hour there my friend and I had lunch and after we'd warmed up we started back for the train station. To do so we walked past the vigil again and we saw that the local pro-choice group had set up their table behind them and one young woman had sellotaped a banner to the ground a short distance in front of them that read "These people tell LIES about abortion." I slowed my pace and we both read it as we walked by and the woman herself then said that the pro-lifers spread lies about abortion. I told her I didn't agree, she said that was my opinion, I then pointed to her slogan said and that this was simply hers. To my shame I was going to carry on walking but my very courageous friend stopped and we had what then became a very interesting and worthwhile conversation. I owe my friend a great big thank you! What was so good about this conversation was that we each took the time (albeit briefly as we did, alas, have a train to catch) to listen to each other's point of views (one of the other pro-choice group came over to talk to us too) and discuss them. Had we had more time we could all have had a coffee together and had a very fascinating discussion I'm sure!! My friend spoke about her own abortion, the pro-choice lady had had one too, and she said how she deeply regretted it as she knew that that action had ended another life. The pro-choice lady (sorry, I don't want to use names or descriptions of people without permission) said she felt the pro-lifers were intimidating, we responded to that by saying we want to highlight there are other options; both my friend and other people we both know have, as I previously said, felt pushed into it, no other options were given in any of the stories we told her which she agreed was wrong. She also said she felt that, on both sides of the argument, it was male-dominated; men telling women to abort or not abort and she thought too that the pro-life movement was mainly men; we told our group is all women and we are not anti-woman in any way. My friend said she'd become involved in this peaceful movement due to her own abortion and I told her that I had because I did not believe that anyone, under any circumstances had the right to take the life of another which is why I would also never support euthanasia or the death penalty (if there were ever a push for it to be legalised once more). What we both found quite interesting is that she agreed with me totally in this view, we were coming from the same starting place but she didn't consider an unborn baby a baby. I wish we'd had longer to talk about this as we did start talking about when life begins and it really was good to discuss it. What we all agreed before my friend and I dashed off for the train was that the two sides should talk more as we'd all got something out of our brief and polite exchange.

After we left I did feel very bad that I would have just carried on walking and I have no excuse as to why. Perhaps I let my own fear or misguided bias of what the other side might have to say but what I discovered is that we actually do have a lot of common ground but differ on some very key and essential points (I didn't see the common ground side of it before) and we should really engage with each other more often. Even if ultimately we agree to disagree we can't expect to make a difference, to change minds and hearts without properly listening to one another, hearing what we each have to say and explaining our points of view. And how can we properly witness to the truth if we don't take up the opportunities to do so?! Thank you so much, again, to my fellow pro-life as she did a great thing today and I won't just walk on next time!!


  1. Well done both of you and I'm so sorry I wasn't able to join you today after all. It sounds as though you had a marvellous encounter and I'm very struck by your description of how you found you had so many points in common with the pro-choice lady. One of the sad things about the pro-life/pro-choice debate (and about so many situations where people differ in their strongly-held views) is that everyone just talks, or yells, at each other and doesn't LISTEN. At the very least it's a question of courtesy to hear the other side out; but as you so well point out, Katherine, we have no hope of resolving any issues unless we all take the trouble to understand where the "other side" is coming from. Without listening in order to attempt to understand, we just end up demonising each other. And as you say, that's no way to change minds or hearts!

  2. A great article, well done Katherine! Xx