The Early Pro-Life Movement in the UK

The Abortion Act was introduced by the Liberal MP David Steel as a Private Member’s Bill.  The Act allowed abortion on a number of grounds.  After three readings, the Act was eventually passed on 27 October 1967 and came into effect on 27 April 1968.

Before the bill was passed there were many committed pro-life people who lobbied and campaigned against such a change in the law.  Once the bill had been passed pro-life activity in the UK gained great momentum.  Many more pro-life groups and organisations were formed which attracted huge numbers of supporters and volunteers.

Thousands turned out to make a stand for life, 600 students came together to march from the BMA to Downing St to protest against abortion. The photographs below show just some of the protests and rallies that took place in the UK as early as 1976.

The youth and students division of the Society for the Protection of
Unborn Children holds an all-night vigil between the Victoria Palace
Theatre and Victoria Station in 1986 to protest against 18 years of
legalised abortion (since 27th April, 1968)

A Pro-Life witness in Trafalgar Square, London, in 1976, led by The Survivors, a pro-life theatre group. The Survivors was established in 1975 by John Smeaton, now the chief executive of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, and Debby Sanders, who was the leader of Women for Life, a pro-life feminist group. The Survivors performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1975 in a revue entitled “I’m a Product of Conception – Aren’t We All?”

Members of The Survivors, a pro-life theatre group. The Survivors was established in 1975 by John Smeaton, now the chief executive of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, and Debby Sanders, who was the leader of Women for Life, a pro-life feminist group. The
Survivors performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1975 in a revue entitled “I’m a Product of Conception – Aren’t We All?”

Anti-abortion rally on 28th April, 1979, organised by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, in London’s Hyde Park is supported by tens of thousands from all over Britain.

In 1983, SPUC No Less Human, then known as the disabled division of
the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, led by Alison Davis
(pictured, centre, with the Stop the Trial banner), ran a campaign to to
ry to stop the Medical Research Council trials in which some mothers
would deliberately be allowed to become pregnant with disabled babies.
SPUC’s protest targeted Boots which was providing pills for the project.
Mothers would be screened and if the baby was found to be disabled they
would be offered an abortion “to get rid” of the baby.

Speakers and supporters marching prior to an anti-abortion rally held in Dundee, Scotland, on 22nd April, 1979. Speakers and supporters pictured are (from left to right), Mrs Emma Clardy Craven, a black American human rights worker, a Methodist, and Chairman of the Human Rights Commission in Minnesota, US; Dr Margaret White, a general practitioner, author, speaker and broadcaster, and former vice-president of SPUC; Marilyn Gillies Carr, a pro-life lady born without arms who spoke out for the right to life of the disabled; Marysia Kobylarska, who is now the chairman of SPUC Dundee; and Archbishop Conti, then Bishop Conti, the bishop of Aberdeen.

A young girl wondering why all babies aren’t allowed to live?

History of March for Life

History of March for Life

Mary Kenny, the Irish author, playwright, broadcaster and journalist, joins a Call for Action pro-life march and rally held in Glasgow on 31st October 1976, organised by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. Also picture, second on the left, is Ian Murray, formerly
director of SPUC Scotland and SPUC general secretary. The rally in Glasgow was one of a number of regional marches and rallies held around Britain, including Bristol, Chelmsford, and Birmingham. The rallies were held to call on Parliament to take action to stop abortion

More than 600 students from all over England marched from the British Medical Association headquarters in Tavistock Square, London, to Downing
Street in June 1977 to protest against abortion. The march was organised by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. The British Medical Association passed a motion at its Annual Conference in July 1977 opposing legislative measures against abortion.

Marilyn Carr, a woman born without arms, who stood in the Croydon North West by election in 1981 on the right to life of disabled babies born and unborn, is pictured with Malcom Muggeridge, a British
journalist, author, media personality, and satirist. He supported her candidacy and wrote an article in the Daily Mail which referred to the growing practice of letting disabled babies die of starvation. The Daily
Mail was charged and, at first, found guilty of contempt of court since a Dr Leonard Arthur was at that time on trial for the attempted murder of a disabled baby. However, Sir David English, the then editor, and the Daily Mail’s publishers were cleared of contempt by the unanimous ruling
of five Law Lords. Sir David English said after the judgement: “Of course [Malcolm Muggeridge’s article] was emotional … it was designed to make people think and argue about the subject of life and death. But
it never mentioned the Dr Arthur trial.”

Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women! It was true then and is true now!

Supporters of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children’s rally on 28th April 1978 march to Hyde Park to hear Mrs Gemma Clardy Craven, a black human rights activist from the US, addressing a vast crowd.

SPUC protests at the British Medical Association annual conference against the growing practice of the starvation to death of newborn disabled babies as well as the increasing targeting of unborn disabled
babies for abortion.

The History of March for Life

On January 22, 1974 thousands of pro-lifers participated in the first March for Life to stand up for the unborn. An inspiring rally was held as Members of Congress announced pro-life legislation and expressed their support for the pro-life cause. The program concluded with a “Circle of Life” march around the Capitol, followed by participants lobbying their Members of Congress.

Soon after that first March in 1974, it became apparent that congressional protection for the unborn was not on the horizon. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, Nellie decided that the March for Life, rather than the originally anticipated one-time event, would instead be held every year until Roe v. Wade was overturned. That year, the March for Life became incorporated as an action-oriented non-profit organization, and the “Life Principles” were developed as the underlying guideline of the organization.

With Nellie’s leadership, the March continued to grow and develop each year. Nellie was an ever-faithful voice for the most vulnerable in society, working to protect the preborn until her last hours of life. While each March for Life has faced a unique challenge or obstacle, the numbers of participants have continued to grow.

Under the leadership of Nellie, the March grew from 30 concerned citizens gathering in a Washington D.C. home to the present day march that draws hundreds of thousands of people from all fifty states and countless countries!

Inspired by the example of pro-life activists in the UK in the 1970’s and 1980’s and also by March for Life in America, in 2012 a small group of people in Birmingham UK decided to hold a pro-life walk of witness as a half-way event for their 40 Days for Life campaign.  The team were pleasantly surprised when around seventy people turned up to join in with the walk of witness from St Michael’s Church on Moor St to Victoria Square.  As they walked through the city centre, they held bright yellow balloons printed with the simple message of LIFE, sang hymns and prayed for a culture of life.

Following the success of this public witness to life and bolstered on by an increasing interest shown in a further March the following year, the team decided to advertise the next March on social media and to name the event, March for Life UK.  Again the team were delighted to find that interest had grown with people coming to attend the March from all over the country, they estimated that in 2013, around 400 people came to St Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham and marched for life.

Since then March for Life UK has grown each year doubling in size, in 2017 despite the rain we saw our biggest crowd to date of 4000 people!

On 27th April 1968 the Abortion Act that was passed in October 1967 came in to effect and since then almost 9 million babies have lost their live to abortion. On 5th May 2018 in Parliament Square let’s rekindle some of the zeal that the pro-life movement had in the 70’s and come together as one united voice to march for life together so that hearts and minds are changed about the greatest violation to human rights in history!

50 Years of Abortion in the UK

You are called to stand up for life! To respect and defend the mystery of life always and everywhere, including the lives of unborn babies, giving real help and encouragement to mothers in difficult situations. You are called to work and pray against abortion.

Pope St John Paul II

Contact Us

If you have any questions about March for Life or about getting involved in the pro-life movement, send us an email and we will get right back to you.