Their aim is an end to abortion throughout the UK and they plan to make this happen through peaceful prayer. Their name is ’40Days For Life- London’ and their next campaign is kicking off in a weeks time in London.According to their website:
“From March 9th 2011 – April 17th 2011 our community will be one of many cities joining together for the largest and longest coordinated pro-life mobilization in history.”
40 Days for Life is a focused pro-life effort that consists of 40 days of prayer and fasting, 40 days of peaceful vigil, 40 days of community outreach. We are praying that, with God’s help, this groundbreaking effort will mark the beginning of the end of abortion in our city — and throughout the UK.
At first it seems like a harmless protest, they’re entitled to speak out about their beliefs, right? Besides, they’re not being viscious and abusive as the pro-life movement in the US is known to often be. However, as March 9th draws closer I have a cold and terrible concern that has been growing in the back of my mind. The very fact that these people are going to be on the streets with their peaceful protest brings me more fear than the idea of the violent protesters being out there in their place.
It’s all because of a conversation I had with the leader of the London branch of ’40 Days for Life’ last year. I got in touch with him after the Daily Mail ran an article about them entitled: The new abortion war; Doctors murdered… clinics firebombed. Could Britain follow in the steps of the militant U.S ‘pro-lifers’?
At the time I hadn’t known they were in the UK and it surprised me that pro-lifers were so active in this country. The title of the article had shocked me as I knew the extent of the violent ‘pro-life’ protests in the US and I couldn’t imagine such a thing coming to the UK.
The Daily Mail article reported that the British organiser of ’40 days for life’ (which is widespread in the US already) is Robert Colquhoun who is 28 and trained for the priesthood but now works in finance in the City. The Daily Mail said:
Robert paid about £280 for a ‘starter protest kit’ that he bought on the internet from 40 Days’ head office in America.
‘It’s a brilliant idea,’ he says. ‘They give you the best training I’ve ever had. It’s all online and really clever. And then they send the basic resources — the big banner and the signs — and you adapt them to the local campaign. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. We need to get the message across here.’
In return, he’s provided regular updates to the 40 Days HQ in Texas. ‘They’re very interested in how it all works in the UK and how the campaign’s been going in London, so we’ve been feeding all our findings back to them and they seem really pleased. The group’s grown exponentially in America, so we’re hoping it will take off here.
‘We’re hoping for at least 1,500 local volunteers by Lent. This is just the beginning — we have so much to learn from America.’
The last part of that quote scared me very much indeed as he didn’t elaborate on what he meant by ‘so much to learn from America’. Would that be how to firebomb clinics and kill people? How best to use placards with dead babies on them to shock people arriving at abortion clinics? How much did the London branch of 40 days want to learn from pro-lifers in America?
Being the proud skeptically minded person that I am, there was no way I could simply take the Daily Mail’s word as fact so I did what anyone should do, and I contacted Robert directly who very kindly answered most of the questions I had about their campaign, their aims and their beliefs.
As I have said above, I was aware of the ‘pro-life’ movement and protests in the US, but it was always something I only knew a bit about as it had never been something I had to deal with on a local level. London isn’t local for me, but it’s a bit closer than America (if that makes sense).
My knowledge of the way in which pro-lifers justify their actions wasn’t top notch and so for me, this was a great way to really understand the people behind the scary Daily Mail headline that suggested that Pro-lifer activists could already be in the UK.
What follows is my conversation with the leader of the London branch of ’40 days for life’:
Hayley: Thank you for sparing me some of your time, I appreciate you are busy with your campaign. In the Daily Mail article there is a link between breast cancer and abortion mentioned that suggests abortion can increase the risk of cancer. I was wondering where the link with breast cancer comes into play as I saw that many cancer charities deny such a link.#
I was also wondering how exactly abortion was a sin? I saw in the article “We don’t love sin, we love the sinner” but I don’t understand how abortion is a seven sin. Also, do you not feel that making abortion illegal or less accessible, girls and women will still abort in “back street abortion clinics” which can seriously harm them?
Robert: Abortion is a sin because it is the deliberate ending of the life of an unborn child. This is contrary to the will of God. Since abortion has been legalised, it has grown exponentially and has been encouraged throughout.
We encourage people of faith and conscience to pray and fast for an end to abortion. So far six women have changed their minds about having an abortion as a result of our initiative and we have helped to build a growing consciousness about the humanity of the unborn child.
Hayley: You say “Abortion is a sin because it is the deliberate ending of the life of an unborn child. This is contrary to the will of God” but does God not order people in the bible to kill children – and does he not, himself, kill children?
Whoever strikes his father or mother shall be put to death. (Exodus 21:15 NAB)
From there Elisha went up to Bethel. While he was on his way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him. “Go up baldhead,” they shouted, “go up baldhead!” The prophet turned and saw them, and he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two shebears came out of the woods and tore forty two of the children to pieces. (2 Kings 2:23-24 NAB)*
Please tell me why your God feels it is okay to murder children, but it is not okay to “murder” unborn children?
Robert: The Old Testament passages you have used are out of context from their true meaning.** The most important passage is from the Old Testament 10 commandments: You shall not kill. Abortion in fact violates all the ten commandments:
If you’ve had an abortion yourself- there is wonderful hope and healing available from this ministry that I highly recommend as truly excellent. <a link was provided via email>
Hayley: You say that six women changed their minds about having an abortion. Were they Christian? If not, do your campaigners have any right to tell other people how to live their lives? Isn’t it a bit arrogant of anyone to presume they can dictate wrong and right to another human?
Robert: Those who changed their minds were from a variety of different backgrounds. Many of them did not know that there were people who were willing to help them with many practical needs which were the primary reasons that they were having abortions. They all felt as if they had no choice but have an abortion. We do not impose, merely propose an offer of unconditional help to those in need.
In terms of dictating right or wrong to other humans: that is what the law does by giving a list of laws by which society is governed. No laws would equal anarchy. In the case where the law in an injustice, a further difficulty arises.
Hayley: I was worried because I read in the Daily Mail article that somebody involved with 40 days in London feels that the methods used in America to campaign and target people attending abortion clinics need to be used in England too. What was meant by that? Some of the campaigning in the US is dangerous and violent and has led to murder.
Robert: The Daily Mail article was extremely misleading because only peaceful and prayerful means are used in our campaigns.
Hayley: What do your protest entail? For example, do you use graphic images on placards like in the US?
Robert: we have a prayer vigil for 12 hours a day: we have signs saying ‘pray to end abortion’ but no pictures of aborted babies as we don’t think that it is effective of pastorally effective to do that in that context.***
Hayley: Do the protesters really have the right to condemn women to a lifetime of raising a child they didn’t want? I know they may grow to love the child and that is great! However, you don’t know what led them to that clinic, what their backgrounds are, why they chose to abort the baby due to their backgrounds, positions, lifestyles. How can you be sure that you aren’t condeming a child to a terrible life?
Do you follow up with those women to ensure they are okay? Or do you just send them on their way?
Robert: We have a prayer vigil, not a protest. We don’t condemn or judge anyone, merely pray and offer help to those in need.
We offer counselling and help so they are not just sent on their way, so many have been helped thanks to our presence. To learn more about what abortion really is, visit: <link provided to me is available on request due to the graphic nature>
Hayley: But will the banning of abortion not result in women just seeking abortions elsewhere? We’ve seen that happen in the past. Backstreet abortions are dangerous and potentially fatal. Is that okay with you? That you could be condemming women to dance with death in order to live their life how they wish to live it?
Robert: We are not mainly interested in changing the law, but praying for an end to abortion.
Hayley: Do you not think that by protesting abortion you are actually infringing the human rights of the very women being labelled as ‘murderers’? I know people believe they are protecting the human rights of the unborn child and there is a lot of debate regarding the stage at which abortion becomes ‘murder’ but when is it ever okay to disregard one persons human rights for anothers? I don’t think it ever is. #
This is where the conversation ends.
The claim that six women had their minds changed by the campaigners is what worries me the most about the peaceful protests that are kicking off on March 8th. The ’40 days for life’ campaigners have no right to tell a woman what to do with her body, and they have no right to try and change a womans mind. I would also question whether they have the training or qualifications to deal with people who may be in a fragile state of mind.
I accept that the claim made by Robert is that the women in question were made aware of the fact that there were alternatives and that there was support they could get.
A doctor is more likely to be able to give somebody access to suitable resources and the correct advice for their situation than a religious stranger on the street.
Peaceful protests or not, pushing your own beliefs onto others at a very difficult time in their lives in fundamentally wrong. Not only that though, threatening them with damnation from your god is cruel.
Beware London, 40 days for life are coming.