An anti-abortion group holding a 40-day ‘vigil’ outside of the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield claim they are there to raise awareness, rather than judge women.

40 Days For Life is an international Christian organisation that claims it is ‘helping to end the injustice of abortion’. Its first campaign took place in 2007, and has reached over 1000 cities in 63 countries.

Rachel Wood, who organises the Sheffield vigils, told Sheffield Wire that the group has been in the area for three years and aims to pray outside the hospital from 8 am to 8 pm, seven days a week, which is when abortions are performed in the hospital.

Mrs Wood, who also assists in running two helplines that aim to end abortion, said: “We believe life is a gift. Abortion hurts women – they think it’s a right to choose, but it does hurt women.”

The group do not consider their actions to be a protest, with Mrs Wood stating that 40 Days For Life considers it a “peaceful prayer vigil.”

Andrew holding his ‘pro-life prayer book’. The attendees claim their vigil is peaceful. Source: Tabitha Wilson

Another one of the vigil attendees, Andrew, declined to provide his last name due to fears surrounding his safety.

He said: “We’ve had vigils interrupted where we’ve just been praying, people have come along and smashed our signs up.

“An elderly gentleman had his sign ripped out of his hands and stood on and torn into small pieces – it was quite shocking, but it wouldn’t deter him from coming.”

Marie, who also declined to provide her surname, said: “People mention rape making it okay to abort, but it’s still a life.

“We speak up for the babies – they have no voice. We won’t go away.”

The group faces heavy criticism in Sheffield. Alexandra, 23, from Sheffield Solidarity Group, said: “We think that being harassed whilst undertaking one of the most difficult decisions a pregnant person can take is an awful thing and should not happen.”

Sarah, who declined to provide her last name, helped to set up the Facebook group ‘Sheffield Protecting the Right to Choose’ in September 2022, after reading about 40 Days For Life. The group aims to establish counter-protests and figure out how to support people in Sheffield.

Sarah believes there should be more buffer zones in place to protect people using the services.

“Everyone’s got a right to their beliefs, but I think there needs to be better securities and systems in place.

“It’s already such a stressful time, adding that stress and judgement on top – I can’t imagine what that feels like.”

Sarah also added that she doesn’t think there are a massive amount of people in Sheffield who aren’t pro-choice.

Vigil attendee Marie disagreed, saying she knows “plenty of people who are pro-life. Maybe they don’t see that.”

According to BPAS, 1 in 3 women will have an abortion by the time they are 45 years old.

Next month, MPs are expected to get a free vote on decriminalising abortion in England and Wales after 24 weeks.

The group carry several signs. Source: Tabitha Wilson