Dr Edwards and friends victorious outside Nottingham Magistrate's Court

40 days for Life

Our Chair, Dr John Edwards, doesn't just help out SPUC. In early 2018 he ran a 40 Days for Life campaign in Nottingham, successfully facing-off the local town Council in court. This was essentially a 40 day vigil, praying over the Circle Treatment centre, which is located at Nottingham's Queen's Medical Centre (QMC). The Treatment centre does a variety of health work, but it’s also where most Nottingham area abortions are done. These end the lives of many unborn children.

The campaign settled on a spot some way away, just in sight of the Treatment Centre. If you've ever been to what we locals affectionately call the 'QMC', it's a busy place. People are often standing around outside, waiting or just having a ciggie - even where it’s not allowed! So most times, one or two people standing outside the grounds, quietly praying in a respectful and peaceful witness, shouldn't cause more than a puzzled glance.

However it seems Nottingham Council took issue, classing the vigil as “intimidating”. This seems strange if only because we also understand they later acknowledged that the Vigil was completely peaceful, at all times. They also acknowledged that the only disturbance, was caused by some pro-abortion protesters. Obviously the 40 days campaign wasn’t responsible for the behaviour of pro-abortion protesters.

It seems Nottingham City Council held a secret hearing. They agreed to spend some of your council tax money, on what turns out was a groundless legal attempt - all to try to stop our good Dr Edwards. After serving him with an injunction, they employed a barrister and tied up the court’s time, hoping to extend it to the other good locals, taking turns in prayer and witness. Dr Edwards attended the court hearing on 23 March, and defended himself without any legal representation. The court lifted the injunction completely. Dr Edwards said:

“We’re delighted that the court has decided to uphold our right to pray and to express our point of view in public. This was a deeply misguided attempt by the city council to attack free speech simply because they disagreed with our point of view.”

“40 Days for Life is a peaceful, prayerful act of witness that takes place legally in hundreds of communities throughout the world. Here in Nottingham, the vigil takes place outside the grounds of QMC Hospital in Nottingham, for 40 days during Lent. Participants in the vigil stand on the pavement and pray quietly, holding banners with wording such as 'Pray to end abortion'. The banners do not display any pictures."

“We do not intimidate anyone. If anyone approaches us, we will talk to them, and can direct women to sources of support to help them keep their baby if that is what they wish. Many women around the country have been helped by such vigils.”

40 Days for Life is a focused pro-life campaign. Its vision is to access God’s power through prayer, fasting, and peaceful vigil to end abortion. As Dr Edwards commented after the injunction was lifted -

“We are here in an act of peaceful witness, and to offer help to women in need. It is clearly not our intention, or in our interests, to alarm or distress anyone. Accordingly, I asked the council to explain their allegations against me, so we could work together to resolve any such problems. That I did not receive a reply shows that the Council is not interested in amicable solutions, but rather is determined to shut down pro-life free speech.”

The local BBC news website reported the lifting of the injunction. Although they quoted some of Dr Edwards' comments, they gave the final word to the Council. The previous month, the BBC reported the QMC was being “targeted”. In a generally negative article, the BBC gave weight to some research about the effects of “protests” on women attending clinics. The quoted researcher Dr Lowe said that even if peaceful, this is a form of “street harassment”.

However, notably Dr Lowe has said “women .. have plenty of opportunity to access information and make up their own minds”. We know from women’s accounts this is certainly not always so. It’s been reported that on 29 October 2017, Ann Furedi, CEO of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, advised that 15% of women change their minds every year. This indicates they were not completely and resolutely decided when they attended the clinics. Also, everyone knows women are sometimes threatened and pressured into having abortions against their wishes, feeling they have “no choice”. As to the quality of official support, only in 2016, the Care Quality Commission found patient safety concerns serious enough to make one of the main UK providers, Marie Stopes, temporarily suspend some abortions in one clinic. In 2017 a retired consultant gynaecologist who worked at a Marie Stopes clinic, Dr John Parsons, stated:

“I believe the women who sought help were taken advantage of as well as the doctors and the staff. We worked in an atmosphere of bullying and pressure – it was nothing more than a conveyor belt service.”

This situation can’t be good for women, let alone their unborn children. 40 Days for Life is one of a number of movements trying to help.