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From the “stories you’re not likely to see widely covered but probably should know about” department: the oldest and largest abortion clinic in New York City has closed  after more than two decades of dedicated prayer, protest, and counseling outside its walls. And it’s not a case of property shuffling or doctors relocating: both sides acknowledge the sustained witness and hopeful perseverance of the mostly-lay volunteers caused this to happen; no replacement facility seems to be planned.

One man quoted in the Daily News article linked to above attributes this turn of events to “harassment.” What that means, of course, is that ordinary and law-abiding citizens praying the Rosary refused to stop exercising their freedom of assembly. But such a take also misses the essence of the victory, which flowed not from some fanatical political obsession but a far greater source. Thus the  Tablet , the diocesan newspaper, tells a bit of a different story :

“This was the oldest and largest abortion clinic in New York City and for many years, in the United States,” said Msgr. Reilly. “I believe more than a quarter of a million unborn children lost their lives there.”

Msgr. Reilly and the Helpers were accompanied by then-newly appointed Bishop Thomas V. Daily in the summer of 1990 when they first prayed at the site. They were met by a vicious band of pro-abortion supporters who tried to drown out their prayers and hymns of praise. For years, the pro-aborts continued to harass the Helpers during their monthly Rosary vigils there. Mostly young, they would blow whistles and hurl obscenities at the Helpers who held their ground as they prayed. The N.Y.C. Police always were on hand to assure safety and maintain peace.

Bishop Daily would tell the Helpers to obey the law and not to respond to the hecklers. After the recitation of the Rosary, the Helpers would process back to St.Michael’s for benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

If that doesn’t confirm the power of genuinely Catholic social justice in action, I’m not sure what does. And a reminder, too, that there are ways of advancing the pro-life cause that supplement the often-disappointing and mercurial realm of national politics.

Indeed, what’s telling about what happened in Brooklyn is that it’s not an isolated case: One of the quieter and more-remarkable ways  the pro-life cause has turned the tide in recent years has come from its success in reducing the availability of abortion by reducing the number of physical locations where they may be obtained. This has been the result of several factors: In some states, incremental new laws have come into effect (in many cases, they simply involve holding these clinics to the same standards as other medical facilities and ending years of double-standards); in other cases, public witness has been enough. And then there’s another trend, alluded to in the Daily News piece—fewer and fewer doctors are willing to perform or even be associated with abortions:

So far as many as 20 doctors have expressed interest in working at the new clinic—a stark difference from as recently as a month ago when Lazar struggled to find doctors willing to work there . . .

Julie Kashner, president of the Brooklyn and Queens chapter of the National Organization for Women, said she was shocked abortions were no longer offered at the medical center.

Kashner had never heard of a clinic closing under pressure, but added there are others dealing with the same problem. NOW has planned a rally in support of another medical center offering abortions in Jamaica, Queens also struggling to find doctors and patients.

All in all, a pretty incredible story, compounded by the fact that it happened in New York City. If you can make it here . . .

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