The first was Rachel MacKenzie, who now works for Rachel's Vineyard, the organisation dedicated to helping women to recover from the trauma of abortion. She described her own sad experiences as a young woman, including being awake enough during one of her abortions to see the abortionists counting the body parts of her dismembered baby. She described her long journey through the classic stages of grief: anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance; and acknowledged that some of the anger and hostility that we were experiencing from the counter-protestors might indicate that some of them were stuck in the early stages of that process. Rachel's courageous acceptance of the reality of her choices was very evident in all that she said: about the children she had had aborted, and about her finding meaning through faith and her charitable outreach to others in a similar situation. Rachel's talk may be seen and heard here.
The second was the indomitable Clare McCullough, founder of Good Counsel Network. Clare was very clear about the need for the frontline work she and her volunteers do: reaching women on the very threshold of the abortion clinics. Her testimony gives the lie to the political posturing of Sister Supporter and their fellow-travellers. If Clare and her team were harassing or abusing women, then women would never trust them; and it would be self-evidently counter-productive. In fact, many women are grateful for their presence, as it offers them a real choice, to turn away from the path they are - often extremely unwillingly - on, and make a positive choice for themselves and their unborn children.
Alina and her daughter
Powerful as Clare's speech was, it was the following testimonies of two of the women that Good Counsel Network have helped that was most moving. The first, Alina, told us her story, and how one of Clare's volunteers had offered her love and support, and the belief that she could have her baby. She had the girl - due to be killed by Marie Stopes International on that fateful day all those years ago - with her on stage. Alina is so grateful for Good Counsel Network that she now volunteers for them, and it is she who is challenging Ealing Council's Buffer Zones in the courts.
The next speaker was Aurelia, another women rescued from the very jaws of the abortuary. Again, her situation was difficult, and seemed without hope, until a Good Counsel volunteer approached her and said that she could help. And that volunteer was Alina. Like Aurelia, Alina had her daughter with her: you can watch and listen to her testimony here - and in the background at the start, you will see Clare McCullough carrying Alina's baby: 'the best thing that ever happened to me, the love or my life' as Alina said.
After Alina's story, Aurelia and Alina were joined on stage by a number of other women helped by Good Counsel Network, and their babies and young children. This is why we do what we do.
Shortly after this, I had to leave, as the last train North was unreasonably early! But as I made my way home, I reflected on the start and the end of the day: on Life's fantastic strategy of reaching as many women as possible at the very start of their pregnancies: trying to help them before they are placed on the one-way path to abortion; and then on Good Counsel Network's heroic work at the other end, snatching life from the jaws of death, and hope from the threshold of despair.
Pray for them all. And act! As Clare McCullough said, it is no good lamenting the draconian actions of Ealing Council if we are not prepared to do something. Prayer is important; but it doesn't let us off the hook of writing the the Home Secretary and our own MP about the travesty of buffer zones (and drawing their attention to the testimony of women like Alina and Aurelia); and of considering what more we can do to support the essential work of Life and Good Counsel Network, both thought alms and volunteering.
If not us, then who?...
Lord, when did I see you pregnant and refuse to help you? Unborn, and refused to stand up for you?...