ANTI-ABORTION campaigners have sparked outrage by staging a 40-day prayer vigil against the "modern day Holocaust” outside a York abortion clinic.

Members of St Wilfrid’s and other York Roman Catholic churches say they intend to pray outside the BPAS (British Pregnancy Advisory Service) centre in Wenlock Terrace, off Fulford Road, from 8am to 8pm every day until November 1.

Organisers said ‘40 Days for Life’ was a peaceful, socially distanced prayer campaign - with the majority of participants women - which sought the end of abortion and was being staged outside the clinic because it had been the location of abortions for many years.

“The life of the child in the womb, which in God’s designs, should be the safest place imaginable, has now become the place most dangerous for survival,” they said. "We are living in a modern day Holocaust.”

But the BPAS condemned the campaign, saying: "It is absolutely appalling that a group which describe abortion care as a modern 'Holocaust' are targeting patients and healthcare workers in this way.

“Women understandably feel intimidated by groups of strangers, often middle aged men, standing in front of a clinic where they are trying to access confidential, legal medical care.

“At a time when we are all being told to socially distance from loved ones, their activity is even more galling.”

It added that the clinic, which provided pregnancy counselling and early medical abortion, was currently closed and would remain so for the duration of the protest.

Leaflets distributed to local households, apparently by local residents, have claimed that those involved are "praying for misogyny", adding: “These people believe that women should be forced to carry unwanted pregnancies full-term, however unsuitable this may be emotionally, medically or practically.”

Several local residents have also spoken to The Press to criticise the vigil, with one saying: “Everyone is entitled to their opinion but some who become pregnant might be young, vulnerable, frightened by the whole process and so this could be quite intimidating.

“Perhaps it would be better if they had a demonstration elsewhere.”

Another said: “It’s not fair to target women who have already struggled with their decision - weighing up life chances and community support and concluding that abortion is the least worst option.”

Sebastian Sanyal, York ‘40 Days for Life’ coordinator, said: “Through our vigil, we are showing love towards women, their unborn children, and their families, sending the message that it is good and right to keep your child and wrong to abort it.

“We also pray for the staff members involved in abortion, for a change of heart and mind.

“Since receiving complaints about the physical direction of our prayer, we now face towards the clinic.

“By being there, we are a witness to others that what has been going on there is unjust and inhuman.”

He added that many more supporters were praying at home for the cause, which had attracted some interest from Evangelical Protestants.