History

History of the Pro-life Movement in the UK

The 1960’s in the UK heralded in a movement pushing for ‘women’s rights’,  with marches demanding that women be given the right to decide whether their unborn babies should live or not.  “It’s our bodies, we can do what we like!”  It is worth noting that a very large number of men were involved in this movement – in spite of women claiming “What’s it got to do with men?

Notably it was a man who first brought the abortion bill before Parliament, Labour MP Mr. Crossman – an amendment was put forward by David Steele (later knighted) and was passed.  Len Murray, Trades Union Leader, led at least one march through London (he also was subsequently knighted); and a lot (possibly most) abortionists were (and maybe still are) men.

There was a huge Rally in London to oppose the Bill – 100,000 people from all over the country assembled at Hyde Park; the Embankment was filled with coaches. (Blessed) Mother Teresa was there and gave a talk and then the march wound its way past Buckingham Palace and on to Parliament. SPUC waged its war in letter writing to MPs, door-to-door leafleting etc. and a crisis pregnancy centre, Life, was started. Sadly the man-made law legalising abortion was passed in 1967.

We cannot talk about the pro-life work in the UK without first and foremost mentioning Father James Morrow. He was parish priest at St. Andrew’s Church in Braemar, Aberdeenshire, and the first clergyman in the UK to get involved with protection of the unborn, which he did heroically right up until he died. He was given the use of a very old and small disused one-time church/school which he turned into a pro-life centre and called it Humanae Vitae House, where many pro-life people were able to attend talks etc. In 1988 Mr. Jim Gallagher launched Rescue Fr. Morrow was very much involved with this. In 1989 the Rescues extended into England – Birmingham in January and then Manchester in March.

In 1990 Bishop Conti relieved Fr. Morrow of his duties as parish priest so that he could devote all his time to pro-life work and in particular protection of the unborn. Fr. Morrow moved into Humanae Vitae House and it was also used as a Retreat Centre.

In the latter half of the 1980s and early 90s, another pro-life organisation which sprang up was Pro-Life Action Network, started by Liz Toolan, Tamsin (now Sr. Tamsin Geach, OP) and her brother More Geach, and Fr. Morrow was its Spiritual Director. The marvellous, brave people who belonged to PLAN actually went outside the abortion mills to offer help to women and to stop them from going ahead with the abortions; the only pro-life organisation in the UK together with Rescue which did this. It was, according to the media, confrontational, aggressive, violent. And, of course, the media made much of reports that in America, abortion clinics were being burned down and abortionists were being shot – surely if these pro-life fanatics weren’t stopped, the same thing would happen in the UK.

Then in 1999 a marvellous thing happened – Mr. Gianpaolo Mosconi (A Day For Mary) was told by his mother that whilst in New York she had joined a pro-life vigil which was led by an amazing priest and that he, Gianpaolo, should ask the priest to come to the UK. He did this and in May of that year, Monsignor Philip J. Reilly came to England to tell us how he did things in New York. He had started pro-life activities much the same way as others – Rescues (i.e. blocking the entrances to the abortion mills), protests etc. – but had realised this wasn’t working well enough. He prayed before the Blessed Sacrament and the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants was born – very, very peaceful and very, very prayerful; almost like a whisper compared to the noise and clamour caused by the pro-aborts and civil authorities in their dealings with pro-life activities like Rescue and, sometimes, PLAN.
So in 1999 we had our first taste of the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants way of doing a prayer vigil – and we liked it! On Friday evening Monsignor Reilly gave a talk and the next day, May 31st, starting with Mass in St. Bede’s Church, Thornton Road, Clapham Park, he led well over 100 of us in a vigil to the BPAS abortion centre in Leigham Court Road, Streatham.

In the year 2000, it was decided that PLAN would ask Monsignor Reilly if we could go under the banner of the Helpers. And so from our infancy in PLAN we blossomed into the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants – UK.

Shortly after this, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal came to London and Father Richard, CFR, became the Spiritual Director of the Helpers-UK. Now we were able to arrange our big monthly Rosary Procession Prayer Vigils as well as having our smaller weekly ones.

The people on our PLAN mailing list in the UK were now learning about what was happening in London and soon there were Helpers groups starting up throughout the UK – Edinburgh, Scotland; Newcastle-upon-Tyne; Leeds; Fallowfield, Manchester; Stockport; Birmingham; Bath and Bristol; Maidstone.

 


 

Background of the abortion law in the UK

The 1960s in the UK heralded in a movement pushing for ‘women’s rights’, with marches demanding that women be given the right to decide whether their unborn babies should live or not. “It’s our bodies, we can do what we like!” Is it worth noting that a very large number of men were involved in this movement – in spite of women claiming “What’s it got to do with men?

Helpers UK - History

Helpers UK – History

The birth of political & religious
Pro-Life groups

Notably it was a man who first brought the abortion bill before Parliament, Labour MP Mr. Crossman an amendment was put forward, and passed, by David Steele (later knighted). Len Murray, Trades Union Leader, led at least one march through London (he also was subsequently knighted); and a lot (possibly most) abortionists were (and maybe still are) men. So with very little, if any, opposition from the Catholic Church or any other religious denomination, the man-made law legalising abortion was passed in 1967.

David Steele

David Steele

The early days of the Helpers

Among other pro-life organisations which sprang up, was Pro-Life Action Network. The marvellous people who belonged to PLAN actually went outside the abortion mills to offer help to women and to stop them from going ahead with the abortions; the only pro-life organisation in the UK together with Rescue which did this. But as in most new things, we had to learn the best way to do it. And in 1999, an American priest, Monsignor Reilly, came to England to tell us how he did things in New York. He had started pro-life activities much the same way as others – Rescues (i.e. blocking the entrances to the abortion mills), protests etc. – but had realised this wasn’t working well enough. He prayed before the Blessed Sacrament and the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants was born – very, very peaceful and very, very prayerful; almost like a whisper compared to the noise and clamour caused by the pro-aborts and civil authorities in their dealings with pro-life activities like Rescue and, sometimes, PLAN.
So in 1999 we had our first taste of the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants way of doing a prayer vigil – and we liked it! In the year 2000, it was decided that PLAN would ask Monsignor Reilly if we could go under the banner of the Helpers. And so from our infancy in PLAN we blossomed into the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants – UK.

Helpers Beginnings

Helpers Beginnings

 

The Helpers worldwide

Msgr. Philip J Reilly

Msgr O'Reily

Msgr O’Reily

Msgr. Philip J. Reilly, who holds a degree in Philosophy from Cathedral College, a degree in Theology from the Catholic University of America, D.C., a Masters in the Classics from Fordham University, N.Y.C., and an Honorary Doctor of Science from the School of Medicine of Tinava State University in Slovakia, has served the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, as Parish Priest for 5 years, and for 26 years at Cathedral Preparatory Seminary as Seminary Professor, Prefect of Discipline, Academic Dean, Basketball & Chess Coach and Rector and for the past twelve years as Spiritual Chaplain to the Sisters Adorers of the Precious Blood at Precious Blood Monastery.

During this time, Msgr. has been involved in many programs such as the setting up of educational programs to insure minority leadership, The Father Troike leadership Program; establishing groups to provide help and guidance for widows and widowers; beginning and coordinating a Diocesan wide Natural Family Planning programme for engaged and married couples; working with various agencies to alleviate world hunger. However, the overriding issue for the past 36 years has been the defence of the Sanctity of Life. In the late 60’s he was involved in lobbying efforts in New York State to prevent the legalisation of abortion. When in 1970 a law passed legalising abortion through 24 weeks in New York State, Msgr. spent the next two years in organising pickets, demonstrations, and lobbying efforts to repeal the law. In 1972 the New York Abortion law was repealed but unfortunately Governor Rockefeller negated this effort by his veto.

In 1973 when the US Supreme Court Decision, Roe v. Wade, negated all the State Laws outlawing abortion, the struggle for life shifted to the Federal level. Thus starting in 1973, Msgr. publicly withheld a percentage of his Federal Income Taxes to protest the Federal Government paying for abortion with taxpayers’ monies. After Judge Dooling issued his injunction against the Hyde Amendment, which stopped taxpayer’s monies from being used to pay for abortions, Msgr. Reilly’s tax forms and testimony were sent as part of the appeal material to the Supreme Court. In June of 1980 the Supreme Court upheld the Hyde Amendment. In January of 1974 he helped coordinate transportation for more than a thousand people to the First March for Life in Washington, D.C. where his good friend, Dr. Ada Ryan, gave the first keynote speech on the steps of the Capitol Building. For a number of years starting in 1975, Msgr. conducted monthly all night prayer vigils for life.

In 1978, he took part in the original Hundred Mile Walk for Life through the desert in Death Valley, California. Msgr. helped to organise the first rescue in New York City on January 6, 1978. From May 1988 to September 1989 he participated in the National Rescue Movement twenty times, in four different states, being arrested more than once. On the Feast of the Rosary, October 1989, Msgr. started the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, whose goal is not only to offer help to women coming to the abortion mills, but also to maintain a prayerful presence, large and small, at these sites to pray for the conversion of hearts. Every month, since June of 1990, Bishop Daily has led the Helpers large Prayer Vigil in the Diocese of Brooklyn. In October of 2003 Bishop DiMarzio led the Helpers Prayer Vigil. The results have been blessed.

At least twenty clinics have closed in the Diocese of Brooklyn and more than twenty thousand women have left the abortion mills choosing life. The Helpers’ approach is now being used in at least 40 States, more than 100 Bishops and 7 Cardinals have participated. By the grace of God the Helpers’ apostolate has now spread not only throughout the United States and parts of Canada and Western and Eastern Europe but even as far away as Australia, New Zealand and parts of Africa.

Help in a crisis pregnancy

For safe and 100% confidential advice. Contact any of these organizations. They will help financially, emotionally and spiritually.

Get help now

Next Monthly Vigil

    Get involved

    You can help the mission by