BIRMINGHAM, England (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pro-lifers are celebrating the closure of Britain's oldest abortion mill — responsible for killing over a quarter of a million babies over the last five decades.
The Calthorpe Clinic abortion center in Edgbaston, Birmingham downed its shutters after 30 years of persistent prayer by pro-life Catholics, including frequent minor exorcisms by Catholic priests.
The center, originally a home for the elderly, became the first in the United Kingdom to carry out abortions in 1969, two years after Britain's Parliament passed its Abortion Act.
"This is an incredible message of hope to all those involved in the pro-life movement and especially to those Catholics who recognize Our Lady's role in crushing Satan," Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, director of 40 Days for Life, told Church Militant.
"This news was announced by the manageress of the abortion center on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the unborn. If we, as Catholics, don't take encouragement from this, then we are spiritually blind," she noted.
When asked why the center had shut down, Vaughan-Spruce said the deputy manageress had told her that "things are changing" and "Marie Stopes hadn't renewed their contract with the National Health Service (NHS)," the state health provider in Britain.
Patrick, a pro-lifer praying near the entrance, said the manageress came to him and handed him a doughnut announcing the closure of the mill at the end of the month. She said that its employees were looking for new jobs.
"The center actually closed on Dec. 31, so the first abortion-free day was Jan. 1, the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God," Vaughan-Spruce added.
But Patrick says he immediately recognized the significance of Dec. 12 as the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the unborn.
Patrick was born on the feast day of St. Juan Diego, the Mexican who saw Our Lady of Guadalupe depicted as a pregnant woman, an event that converted 9 million Aztecs to Christ and turned them away from the practice of human sacrifice.
"The staff have generally been really friendly towards us," Vaughan-Spruce said to Church Militant. "I went into the center to speak to staff and they welcomed me like an old friend."
She went on to recount the testimony of a lady who pushed her toddler in a carriage towards the pro-lifers praying at the center, telling them:
For a long time, I've been meaning to come this way to say thank you. My daughter came here three years ago to have an abortion but changed her mind after seeing you. She never told anyone on the day why she left, but I want to say thank you because, without you, my grandchild wouldn't be here.
A couple who had considered aborting their baby also testified: "We prayed for an angel to stop us having an abortion. The pro-life volunteer we met that day was our angel."
At its peak, Calthorpe Clinic was the busiest abortion mill in Britain. In 2007, it was reported to be the single largest abortion facility in the United Kingdom, with an annual caseload of around 10,000 clients. In 2012, it was taken over by international abortion provider Marie Stopes, and recent statistics ranked it among the top five busiest abortion centers in Britain.
A series of scandals plagued the center over the last two decades.
In 2000, abortionist Andrew Gbinigie, on his first day at work, nearly killed a 21-year-old woman seeking an abortion after he tore a hole in her womb, removed an ovary, ripped away part of a kidney and pulled down a piece of her bowel. The woman was saved only because the assisting nurse began asking questions.
The patient needed five hours of emergency surgery to save her life. Gbinigie was found guilty of professional misconduct but was kept on the medical register and allowed to practice under certain conditions.
Even after 35 women came forward claiming to have suffered at the hands of the abortionist, Gbinigie was still allowed to keep his place on the medical register.
In 2008, a nurse administered a chemical abortion to the wrong woman. The nurse later realized her mistake and contacted the client, but the drug had already triggered the abortion.
In 2012, abortionist Palaniappan Rajmohan was caught on camera in an undercover sting offering to carry out sex-selective abortions. Although Rajmohan admitted, "It's like female infanticide, isn't it?" he stated on the forms that the woman was under the legal age of consent so he could legally continue the procedure.
Pro-life activist Aisling Hubert, supported by the Christian Legal Centre, launched a private prosecution against the abortionist but was left with a bill of £47,000 after England's Crown Prosecution Service quashed the case saying it "would not be in the public interest" to pursue it further.
In 2016, the center had some of its services suspended owing to concerns raised by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). These included concerns that the right protocols weren't in place to ensure girls under 18 and vulnerable women were able to give informed consent to their abortion, as well as concerns relating to all surgical abortions after 12 weeks. Abortions carried out under general anesthetic or sedation after 12 weeks were suspended.
Between March 2018 and February 2019, there were 18 incidents where patients had to be transferred from the location to a hospital. Volunteers praying outside revealed it was not uncommon to see two or three ambulances lined up outside the building.
During pro-life campaigns, a Catholic priest stood outside the center every day performing minor exorcisms. Seminarians, nuns, students, lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers, truck drivers, moms and dads, young and old pro-lifers all came together in solidarity. On occasion, Muslims showed their support by offering gifts to those who witnessed there.
"For a number of years I have joined the 40 Days for Life group praying in Edgbaston for those affected by the issue of abortion," said Birmingham Abp. Bernard Longley. "With the closure of the Edgbaston clinic, it is important to continue to pray for all parents facing difficult decisions, that they will cherish God's gift of life."