Anti-Abortionists Offering Cash For Life Outside UCL Halls
Gabriel Pogrund visits the anti-abortion campaigners preying upon Ramsay Hall students and passers by outside the Marie Stopes Centre on Whitfield Street.
Proceedings begin at seven each morning, hours before the students lurch past towards campus. From the early morning until evening, regardless of weather, at least four people congregate on Whitfield Street outside UCL’s Ramsay Hall, praying and distributing pink leaflets titled with a light hearted jingle “Believe in Yourself & Follow Your Heart”. Pleasant sounding, but inside a darker topic awaits.
“Mum…we know you are probably upset and confused”…reads the first section of this particular one.
The pamphlet in question is distributed by an organisation called The Good Counsel Network, a group of Catholics campaigning against abortion and providing help, and even money, for mothers they can convince to preserve life. Armed with brollies, rosaries and a portrait of the Virgin Mary, their volunteers pray and prey upon anxious mothers at birth control clinics from 8AM to 8PM daily. Their daily congregation outside Ramsay Hall is no coincidence. The student digs are opposite the first surgery of its kind in the UK.
Marie Stopes International Central London Centre is named after the Scottish botanist who studied at UCL. In 1921,she became the youngest student of the university to obtain a Doctorate aged twenty one, published a sex guide whilst a legal virgin (Yep, there are two Virgin Marys in this tale), charmed fellow eugenicist Hitler with her love poetry and, as an early women’s rights campaigner, was a pioneer in birth control.
The clinic provides abortion for prices up to £1901 a pop.
Before one parts with their hard earned cash and foetus however, the Good Counsel Network will unsurprisingly try to convince you otherwise. The organisation’s raison d’etre is the preservation of the life – maybe not a dishonourable aim, but their means are coercive.
“Don’t do anything now that will hurt your child…you will later regret it” reads one leaflet. It explains abortion can lead to ‘re-experiencing the abortion’, ‘obsession with the would-be birth date’ and ‘alcohol and drug abuse’. These are scare tactics. They warn of the risks of ‘post abortion syndrome or PAS’, the acronym a dishonest attempt to mask the fanciful nature of a non-existent illness publicised by the American pro-life lobby that is rejected by every medical authority across the pond and here. The gruesome symptoms of PAS include annual bouts of depression falling on the date of the abortion and neglect of a mother’s other children.
Yet their scope goes far beyond simple guilt tactics. The group are also alleged to offer financial incentives to women who have decided against abortion. With cash-strapped students just over the road, the collective have been accused of morally dubious practices.
Prayer is perhaps the most harmless work the Good Counsel Network does. Its four interns coordinate shifts with volunteers to pray for women considering abortion – or as their website addresses them, “mums”. One intern, an Irish woman who moved to London to take the role, explains their prayer and fasting will enlist the grace of God and help save lives. A volunteer gleefully adds that 70 lives have been saved this year. The website notes that in the last forty days of the campaign, 36 babies were saved.
The juncture at which a foetus is “alive” is impossibly difficult to identify. The sanctity of human life is foremost to many, some of whom considered and overlooked abortion without the religious dogma bit. It is so hard, however, to divorce pro-life opinion from the religious pro-life lobby. If Whitfield Street is a battlefield for the Catholics of today, abortion is a modern Holy War. And if we’re talking Holy War, one could end on The Good Counsel Network’s amusing recent tweet:
“Today we remember the victory at the Battle of Lepanto against the Ottoman Empire. Victory of the Cross! #HolyRosary” – to laugh or cry?