Hamilton’s March for Life around the streets of the city this year was followed in close proximity by a noisy pro-choice counter-protest.
Voice for Life’s Kate Cormack, who was the main speaker at the March for Life, was joined by New Conservative Party deputy leader Elliot Ikilei in walking between the two groups as a type of buffer.
The two groups nearly came in contact with each other as the pro-choice element advanced quickly when the prolife march was starting. Some people at the end of the March for Life turned their placards around so that the pro-choicers could see their messages.
Some of the placards read: “Every life has value”, “Speak for the weak”, “One heart stops, another heart breaks” and “Human rights start in the womb”.
Chants from the other side were along the lines of “not your body, not your choice” and “my body, my choice”.
After the March for Life returned to Memorial Park, where it had started, Miss Cormack told NZ Catholic that an assurance had been given by the pro-choice protest organisers that their side would be peaceful.
“And I’m not sure you would call loudly yelling behind groups of children peaceful. So that was a bit disappointing,” Miss Cormack said.
“ . . . [W]e have created this as a peaceful rally to come together for life — and for a group to purposely come and protest where there are children, on a Sunday afternoon, I think it speaks volumes.”
Miss Cormack said the pro-choice group had a right to express its opinions and “we completely respect that”.
“But it is a bit of a shame when there is quite a bit of hostility when we have families around.”
Nonetheless, the counter-protest did not put Miss Cormack off doing future Marches for Life.
“No, not at all. In fact, it completely inspires us to keep going. This is the reality of what we are up against.”
“We have got people celebrating abortion, celebrating 500,000 children aborted in New Zealand [in 41 years], celebrating 16 abortions in this community [of Hamilton] a week.
“It just tells us we have so much work to change this culture around, change it from a culture of death to a culture of life. I think this is a group of hurting people, young people, there is a lot of work to do.”
Although she did not have an official count of the numbers, Miss Cormack said there were an estimated 500 people on the March for Life and about 80 in the pro-choice group present.
Among the March for Life walkers were Hamilton Bishop Stephen Lowe, a busload of people
from some East Auckland parishes and a Mother of Divine Mercy Refuge young people’s group. The latter sang many harmonious hymns and chants to counter the chants from the pro-choice group.
During her speech before the march started, Miss Cormack said that people in the pro-choice group assembling nearby had been raised in an “abortion culture”.
“They have grown up being bombarded with anti-life messages, being bombarded with this rhetoric from the 1970s, which doesn’t even make sense, but is kind of catchy. And it is all they have known.
“Yet thousands on thousands of their peers were aborted. The same year they were born, thousands of their peers were aborted. And yet they defend abortion today. That is an abortion culture. That’s a culture of death that we are living in. And that is the culture we are going to change. That is the culture we are already changing by being here.”
A consistent life ethic actually cares for these people, because it cares for everyone, Miss Cormack said.
This group has “. . . come here today to hate us, to discriminate against our message, to intimidate and to bully”.
“That’s a side effect of them living in this culture of death. But our consistent life ethic tells us that we care about them regardless of that.”
“We will war against the lies [around abortion and euthanasia/assisted suicide], but we will not war against the people who say the lies. We will continue to love them, we will continue to listen to them. But we will not stop our message of truth.”
Miss Cormack also quoted George Orwell — “ the further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it”.
Later in her address, she spoke about her having been born in Hamilton, when her mother was struggling in a marriage that was “a complete dysfunctional mess”.
And the family had no money.
“For my mum, the day she took me home from the hospital, she said it was one of the saddest days of her life. Not because she had me, but just because what she was taking me home to wasn’t the home she had hoped she would take her daughter back to.
“I am just so thankful that I lived. I am just so thankful that she wasn’t pressured by any of the medical staff, by anyone, to abort me.”
Miss Cormack mentioned Voice for Life’s “We Deserve Better” campaign, which is challenging the Government to have a constructive discussion about doing better for women and their families rather than just providing abortion services and proposing to take abortion out of the Crimes Act.
She also acknowledged all those present who work with vulnerable women and families.
As she neared the end of her address, she said the march was about mourning the children lost to abortion, but was also about “taking a culture of life around your community”.