A large house in Richmond, London was owned by a Roman Catholic religious order in the 1960s to board students from St. Mary’s College in Strawberry Hill.
In the 1960s the clinic was a hostel run by Catholic nuns Daughters of Mary Immaculate. Holy Masses and Eucharistic Adoration took place in this building. Today they perform around 7400 abortions a year including 320 abortions on babies over 20 weeks gestation.
How did a religious order come to sell a property to become the scene of procured abortions? Some people have said the holy ladies were tricked by a go-between, others assumed the place was to be a straight forward, morally upstanding nursing home.
In September 1970, A forty bedded establishment opened with the necessary license in February of the next year, despite protest from the local MP Mr. Toby Jessel and local Churches, such as the Roman Catholic Sons of Divine Providence at Hampton Wick.
The new establishment called itself The Richmond Private Clinic and Nursing Home and treated women from all over the world, England legalising abortion even before America. With the proximity to London Airport, doctors and nurses were kept very busy, but their dedication and pride soon received a severe blow.
In July 1971, Madame Boutte and her husband made a fatal trip from France, on doctor’s advice. The lady was almost 5 months pregnant with four children between seven and twenty three. She was told that due to her age, she had more likelihood of giving birth to a mongoloid baby, and this information helped to bring her to Britain for an abortion. If British Law had not allowed such operations, Madame Boutte would probably be alive today with a fifth child to comfort her old age. Instead, she died at the plush Richmond clinic, suffering from a haemorrhage which could not be counteracted due to the unavailability of replacement blood. There was an inquest on the poor lady, together with the tiny child – a little girl with no signs of abnormality. The verdict of misadventure was given, with the recommendation that in future such operations were only performed during the daytime. Emergencies were harder to deal with outside working hours. The licence was retained.
The clinic soldiered on for almost a year, but in June 1972 was suddenly ordered to close. The reason given after some delay, ordered by the Health Minister, Sir Keith Joseph was that records were not available for inspection, though they were subsequently produced.
What happened in the aftermath of the closures is unknown, but by March 1979, the Pregnancy Advisory Service had taken possession of “Park House” complete with the coveted licence. PAS had formed in 1968, a year after the Abortion Act, and was highly regarded for care and expertise. An application was made to the Kingston Health Authority to reclassify the place as a maternity home under the name “Rosslyn.” Again the local MP, Mr. Toby Jessel and the Sons of Divine Providence objected, along with certain members of the Health Authority. The cottage in the grounds was refurbished for a reception area and business again flourished, with lots of trade from abroad.
In 1996 the premises changed again. The organisation PAS was absorbed by the British Pregnancy Advisory Services. What would the previous owners of the building have thought about the use of the building for women seeking abortions, and nurses counting the tiny baby body parts, making sure none was left behind?
Throughout the years, there have been a number of people who have prayed outside, and done their best to help when distress prevailed. There has been an abundance of men escorting their women and gently encouraging their sometimes reluctant partners up the steps to the door. Cynics would say such scenes point to coercion rather than sympathy, and certainly makes a mockery of “women’s choice.”
All the stories cannot be recounted here, but some deserve a mention. Angela was five months pregnant and from Spain. Her boyfriend was with her, but not the father of the child. Jose did not want Angela to have the abortion. One moment they would quarrel violently beneath their brolly, minutes later they would be totally in love. When they were shown pictures of the development of a baby, Jose’s hopes were strengthened. Incredibly, at the appointed time, the couple still went through the gates.
One day, a tall, charming gentleman asked one of the ‘watchers’ what they were doing. She told him they were praying against abortion and also ready to help any who wanted counselling or who had in fact changed their minds. She also mentioned that she felt folk might be comforted, looking back into the years, to know that someone had cared – especially if they were suffering regret. He listened courteously. He then confessed his wife was inside. She was aborting their third child because – he said – they had just got life arranged as they wanted it. They already had two much loved little girls, a nice home and car, and anyway the fetus was only eight weeks old. “Yes” he confided. “We are Christians, we go to Church.”
One summer’s day, a nasty scene ensued. Four or five people were sitting on the steps in front of the abortion house door, when one young woman began to scream horribly. She appeared utterly tormented, and it was totally obvious should not proceed with having an abortion. Friends tried to calm her, and the ‘watchers’ – two of them at the time, crossed the road and asked if they could help, if only with a glass of water. The Clinic Manager appeared and berated the watchers, accusing them quite unjustly of upsetting his client. The hysterical woman was escorted inside with the angry manager declaring that he would call the police.
On Good Friday 1998, A Polish woman was walking away from the clinic after presumably making an appointment. The ‘watcher’ asked the girl if she wanted help. The young lady burst into tears, said she was from Poland and could not at all understand English. By patting of stomachs and other sign language it was clear she had been directed to “Rosslyn” for an abortion. The young lady again was flooded with tears, and the two women fell into each other’s arms. There on the street corner they hugged and cried tears of utter anguish, then the watcher found herself alone, her heart yearning after the distressed young girl.
There were happier outcomes. Felicity ran sobbing into the arms of a ‘watcher.’ She was taken to a nearby house and consoled with tea and tissues. She was a student, forsaken by her boyfriend and afraid to tell her parents what had happened. Siblings had urged her not to be stupid and get an abortion. Helpers provided money and lodging and assured her that most parents “came round” in the end. Sure enough, Felicity was allowed home again, cared for during her confinement, and now continues at college while her parents look after their much loved grandson.
Today there is a daily peaceful and prayerful vigil run by Good Counsel Network outside the BPAS Centre on Rosslyn Road in Twickenham. Good Counsel Network is a pro-life organisation who works under patronage of the Virgin Mary to reach abortion minded women and help them with real alternatives such is counselling, practical help (financial help, accommodation and legal advice) and moral support so they can continue their pregnancy. Vigil started in November 2013 after 40 Days for life campaign. It runs from Tuesday- Friday at 8am to 2pm and on Saturday at 8am to 12:00 noon.
There have been two 40 Days for Life campaigns there and during those vigils 20 women chose life for their children. During the vigil volunteers pray for unborn babies, their mothers and fathers and everyone who is involved in the abortion decision, they even pray for abortion workers. A trained counsellor gives out leaflets and speaks to women who are entering abortion centre and offers real help to women including information about post-abortion counselling services. Vigil members treat women with the same love and reverence as Jesus Christ would treat them before and after the abortion. Vigil volunteers pray for people’s conversion of hearts. Anyone who is participating at the vigil is becoming God’s tool of love and mercy. This work is truly God’s work.
Hundreds of women chose life for their children there, some of them changed their minds because their received help from Good Counsel Network, some of them prayed for sign from God, others chose life for their kids after reading our leaflets or after talking to pro-lifers, others reported that pro-life presence made them think.
In 2015, a newspaper article reported how the abortion centre potentially put women at risk, after a Care Quality Commission report found that hospital staff at not involved soon enough after serious incidents. In 2012, a teenage mother of one who underwent an abortion at the centre died after contracting a superbug during the procedure.
In the beginning pro-lifers experienced loads of hostility from neighbours but at the moment things are much calmer. Its a clear sign that prayers of pro-lifers are changing a local area as well. During first 40 Days for life outside of this clinic in 2013 a counsellor met a Christian lady who said that God will use this building for his work in the future. God will stop abortions there. Whoever is reading this article is asked to say daily Prayer for Conversion of England for conversion of hearts of mothers and fathers, abortion workers and local residences and finally for closure of this place so no other centre will open.
Will “Rosslyn” then once more become a house that glorifies God – housing needy children, or refugees, or the elderly infirm? Perhaps it will become a hotel or yet another block of flats. A time may come when abortion houses become a thing of the past, with fertility controlled by pills. Most certainly the use to which the building is now given would have been a great surprise to the house’s earlier inhabitants.
Based on an article by Josie Goble (19 Feb 00) with grateful thanks to Mrs. Kathleen Cassidy and Justyna Pasek.
The pictures of the children below are children who were scheduled to be aborted at BPAS Twickenham, but through Christian witness, the courage of their mothers and God’s grace were spared from abortion. The picture of the chapel is from the building in the 1960s.
Prayer for England
O Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and our most gentle Queen and Mother, look down in mercy upon England, thy dowry, and upon us all who greatly hope and trust in thee. By thee it was that Jesus, our Saviour and our hope was given unto the world; and He has given thee to us that we may hope still more. Plead for us thy children, whom thou didst receive and accept at the foot of the Cross, O sorrowful Mother! Intercede for our separated brethren, that with us in the one true fold they may be united to the chief shepherd, the Vicar of thy Son. Pray for us all, dear Mother, that by faith fruitful in good works we may all deserve to see and praise God, together with thee, in our heavenly home. Amen.