Amid the pink and blue balloons and the many signs bearing pro-life messages at the second March for Life in Wellington on December 8, one was especially poignant. Carried by a woman, the sign simply read “I miss my baby”.
Other signs on the march had messages like “Both lives matter”, “Save the baby human”, “I choose life” and “Pro-woman, pro-child, pro-life”.
But perhaps the one which best summarised the mood of the march, and the intentions of the organisers, was “Love them both”.
Some 1200 people marched from Civic Square in Wellington to the grounds of Parliament.
People from many different churches and faiths and people of no faith walked down Willis
Street and Lambton Quay, with many onlookers taking photos or videos on their smartphones.
Organisations which had endorsed the march included Family Life International NZ, Family First, Voice for Life, Focus on the Family, Right to Life, Hillary’s Law, John Paul II Centre for Life, The New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference and The New Zealand Christian Network.
At the start of the march, the MC, Pastor Gina Sunderland from Riverstones Church in Upper Hutt, referred to the recent report by the Law Commission with its three options for reform, all of which take abortion out of the Crimes Act and make it a “health matter”, as
requested by the Government.
Taking abortion out of the Crimes Act removes “any legal recognition or protection of the unborn child”, Rev. Sunderland said.
“These changes could potentially pave the way for late term abortions, aborting children
on the basis of their gender, abortion for those with disabilities — for example Down Syndrome — and possibly even partial birth abortions.
“If there was ever a day to stand up and be a voice for the voiceless, that day is now.”
But she stressed that the fight was against the “lies” told by the pro-choice movement, not against pro-choice people themselves.
Rev. Sunderland also noted that abortion not only ends the life of the pre-born child, but it brings harm and grief to the mother, and to the father, and it has a life-long impact on families and whanau.
Compassion was a strong theme of the march, and this was emphasised by speakers in the forecourt at Parliament.
MP Alfred Ngaro (National) said that hearts go out to the 500,000 children not present, whose lives had been taken by abortion since the 1970s. He said the marchers needed to keep sending their message and standing up for life. But there also needs to be a parallel movement, reaching out to women in crisis.
“We do not stand here in judgement, because that is not our cause, but we stand here in compassion,” Mr Ngaro added. “There are women out there sometimes who are confused and don’t know what sort of choices they should make. And the message we need to send is that we love them and we care for them . . . we want to be there with them.”
This was echoed by Auckland mother (of nine children) Rebecca Loretz, who shared the story of a life-threatening pregnancy she experienced some years ago, and, despite being
repeatedly offered abortion by hospital staff initially, after much prayer, she and her husband decided to carry on with the pregnancy. The baby and mother miraculously
survived. Her daughter from this pregnancy, Philomena, was held up by Michael Loretz, Rebecca’s husband. Philomena smiled at the crowd, who cheered and clapped.
But Mrs Loretz added that she had had a lot of support from her husband, family, community and others during that pregnancy.
“Now there are a lot of women who are facing really difficult circumstances around crisis pregnancies,” she said. “They may not stand to lose their life like I [could have], but they may stand to lose their education, their job, their status, they may not be able to afford their rent or their mortgage. They might lose their home, and they may even lose their husband or their partner if they continue on with their pregnancy.
“This is where we all come in. . . . We actually have to make a difference in these women’s lives, because I know that without the support that I received, I would have found it very, very difficult to proceed with my pregnancy.
“And I know that women who are out there need your help . . . go along to your crisis pregnancy centre, reach out to Family Life International, or to Pregnancy Help, or to other local organisations that are near you. Volunteer, lend a helping hand, drive [women] to their ultrasound, take them to their midwives, be there when they are crying, look after their kids, just like people did for me. As this pro-life community, we just need to work
together to make abortion totally obsolete.”
MP Simon O’Connor (National) congratulated the marchers on their stand for life and added that it is rare for such a large crowd to gather on Parliament’s forecourt over any issue.
“You have stood rightly for life across a range of issues,” Mr O’Connor said. “You are the people who stood up against slavery, you are the people who have stood up against genocide, you are the people who stand up against euthanasia, you are the people who stand against abortion. You stand for life.”
Mr O’Connor, who declared himself to be a “proud pro-life man”, warned of the future reaction of the pro-choice side, which will involve ignoring the science around the earliest stages of life, dealing in slogans rather than in truths and engaging in bullying tactics.
“They will attempt to silence us, and I tell you today and I hope with your voices, we will not be silent, we will always stand for life, a consistent ethic of life, and we will never stop fighting.”
March for Life executive co-ordinator Michael Loretz said organisers were pleased at the turnout — which was nearly double last year’s number of 685 — and in the way the march took place.
“It is really lovely to see, because a few days earlier, here [at Parliament], there were just over 200 pro-abortion marchers and that’s all they could muster. Really, New Zealanders know that abortion is a bad thing.”
He said very few negative comments came from onlookers during the pro-life event.
“On the whole, the march is obviously positive and obviously community-minded, and we are here to say ‘we care’ and we hope for the babies and for the mothers and we are here to support, and I think the community really do appreciate that,” he said.
Mr Loretz sees the march growing in numbers again next year.
“If we can double it next year and for the next three or four, we could have some thousands out here.”
At the end of the speeches at Parliament, the national anthem “God Defend New Zealand” was sung. Dozens of people stayed behind for the praying of the rosary, led by Fr Francois Laisney, SSPX, from Whanganui, which was also the final event in the national Rosary Crusade for life and faith.