On Saturday 27th April 2024 as people filed out of Westminster Cathedral following evening Mass, a crowd gathered on the piazza in spite of the pouring rain for March for Life’s annual Prayer Vigil for Life. The occasion was the anniversary of the implementation of the Abortion Act, marking 56 years to the day since the Act came into effect in British law. For an hour we sang hymns in remembrance of the many lives lost in the intervening years and heard speeches from Christian clergy and those working to oppose the abortion industry, bearing witness to this year’s theme, the simple (yet surprisingly controversial) truth that abortion is not healthcare. 

First to speak was Rachel Mackenzie of Rachel’s Vineyard. Never one to allow the dialogue around abortion to become too abstract, Rachel kicked things off on a personal note, speaking of her own experience and that of the men and women she meets in the course of her ministry as a retreat leader. From suicidal ideation, haunting nightmares and addiction to PTSD, anxiety and depression, she recounted a handful of the many terrible consequences experienced by post-abortive parents having fallen prey to the lie that ‘if it’s legal, it must be OK’, of which ‘abortion is healthcare’ is perhaps the most pernicious expression. 

Next to take the microphone was Anglican Fr Yaroslav Sky Walker of Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Square, who took Rachel’s sentiments further, emphasising the importance of the role of the churches in challenging the lies on which legal abortion rests. Referring to the lie that abortion is healthcare as ‘An evil that makes the individual and the society sick,’ Fr Yaroslav reminded those gathered that ‘It was the church who went among the poor and destitute in times of plague.’ Highlighting the important truth that what we have come to understand by healthcare has its origin in the Christian missions of previous centuries, he clarified that ‘Healthcare, at its core, is about enabling human dignity to flourish.’

Following Fr Yaroslav’s speech, we sang Amazing Grace together, before hearing from Fr Bernard of the Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. Developing what had already been said, Fr Bernard alluded to the deep theological roots of the pro-life cause. Of the need for Christians to speak out, act and steer the culture in a healthier direction, he said, ‘We need to recognise that abortion is not something they’re doing, but something we’re not doing.’ Contrary to the prevailing secular attitude that religious sensibilities have no place in law or healthcare, he spoke of ‘legislating for dignity’, something only possible with reference to the Christian roots of our legal system, since, ‘If one does not know God, one cannot truly know oneself as the image and likeness of God.’

Next presenter Inge Botha read out a statement from Fr Mark Tattum-Smith of the Orthodox Church, who unfortunately could not make it on the night, in which he tied this year’s theme into the ancient liturgical hymns of the Orthodox tradition and boldly referred to the ‘martyrs’ of the abortion industry. 

As the vigil drew to a close, we heard from Clare McCullough, founder of the Good Counsel Network. Clare listed some of the many reasons and pressures she and her colleagues have heard cited as factors in women’s decisions to abort, ranging from practical fears about how they might cope with a child to outright psychological abuse at the hands of partners and family members. She concluded: ‘Women are being abandoned by the decriminalisation of abortion … [They] deserve to know about good alternatives and help.’ 

Though we were all a bit soggy by the end, this year’s Prayer Vigil for Life saw people of varying beliefs come together to sing hymns with one voice and hear speakers of diverse Christian traditions reflect upon the way forward for Britain’s pro-life movement, peacefully and prayerfully championing the right to life, true healthcare and the God-given dignity of every human being. In her closing remarks Isabel Vaughan-Spruce summed up: ‘Let’s pray for hearts that ache as they should over the millions of lives snuffed out, sanctioned by our government, paid for by the NHS and grieved over by untold numbers of women and men who were sold the lie that abortion is healthcare.’

Theo: M4LUK Content Writer

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