At the national March for Life there were many sounds — which could mostly be heard above a strong wind from the north buffeting Wellington on the day.
The event saw an estimated 2500 people walk from Civic Square to Parliament, by way of Willis Street and Lambton Quay.
Among the sounds, there were voices of a powhiri, the words of politicians and parents, the singing of the national anthem, Pacifica chanting, the skirl of bagpipes and the ultrasound heartbeats of babies in their mothers’ wombs, played “live”, from a large stage.
But perhaps the most significant were the words of a young woman called
“Naomi”, who had had an abortion ten years ago.
Naomi’s heartfelt talk had the crowd spellbound.
She related how, ten years ago, she had told a counsellor about “circumstances that were pressing in at the time and how I felt about the pregnancy”.
“I told her I felt guilty, as I had always been very pro-life . . . so I felt the weight of the decision hanging over me.
“She [the counsellor] drew me a fingernail-sized, scribbled circle on a paper, to show me what seven weeks [of foetal development] looked like. She told me a lot of things — like what the procedure would entail, how I might experience some sadness, and that I should find someone to talk to.”
Naomi then described a series of events, feelings, emotions and thoughts that the counsellor did not tell her about.
“What she didn’t tell me,” Naomi began,” was that I’d feel so alone; that I
would go through the procedure alone; no one to sit with me; that I would have no-one to talk to.”
“What she didn’t tell me was that I wouldn’t even be able to voice what I had done to anyone; that I would carry a deep sense of shame.”
There were many other things the counsellor did not tell Naomi about — the suicidal feelings, the drive to self-harm, the panic attacks, the depression, and the pain at feeling unable to grieve.
“What she didn’t tell me,” Naomi continued, “was that I would need to walk
through a lot of painful healing to even feel human again.”
“What she didn’t assure me of was that many of the circumstances surrounding my situation wouldn’t even be an issue down the track, and nor were there other solutions offered.
“What she didn’t tell me was that forgiving myself would have to occur repeatedly, and that guilt and shame would rear its head time and again.”
Naomi then had some comment for everyone.
“So, unless you have walked in the shoes of — and sat and held the hand
of — a broken woman, a woman facing a major life decision like this, you will never know the weight of self-judgement and self-condemnation. It is a weight far greater than anybody else could heap upon them.
“And if we truly value life, then that love and value must begin with the woman — the life that carries the life.”
She spoke of how she had walked this path herself. At some later time, she was able to sit and “answer every burning question that a worried and broken woman asked me when she was facing a major decision that would forever alter the course of her life, and the pain of my own abortion was still raw and bleeding in my soul”.
“That openness caused her heart to change, to see a future for the baby inside her,” Naomi said, to loud cheers and applause at Parliament grounds.
“Women are hurting and broken everywhere,” Naomi continued. “They are
looking for open hearts to sit with them in their brokenness.”
“My challenge to you,” she told the people assembled, “as you rise to be a
voice for the voiceless, is to make sure you make yourself known to be a safe place. That you will love women no matter what, no matter the choices they choose to make, and that you will sit with them in their darkest hour.”
“Be that someone they can talk through their fears, their options, their
future and a place to come, when and if they are broken because of abortion.
“Love them both without reservation. Love her no matter what, and do not turn away.”
Naomi concluded by sharing that she was now the mother of four biological
sons and, with her husband, has permanently fostered a daughter. “We love her just as our own,” she said.
Speaking to NZ Catholic, March for Life chair Pastor Gina Sunderland lamented that many politicians just don’t seem to hear the pro-life message.
“But we will just never give up and we just need to keep lobbying them,” Rev. Sunderland said.
“We have a faithful core of Members of Parliament who are obviously pro-life and they keep the fire burning for us in there, so we have to support them. But the Government is tough — they are very liberal and they are completely blinded, obviously, about this whole issue. So it is a bit of a hard nut to crack there, but we will just keep on educating society and being a voice.”
The March for Life is a good vehicle for that voice, she added.
“For us . . . it is about getting the message out there and giving the ordinary Kiwi an opportunity to get out and march. Not everyone will do that, but
March for Life is safe. It is a peaceful, family- friendly environment and people who don’t normally get involved in marches have a place to do that safely and that is what is really special about it.”
Rev. Sunderland said organisers were thrilled so many people turned out for the march — twice the number that had marched last year.
Three MPs spoke at the event — Paulo Garcia, Simon O’Connor and Alfred Ngaro (all National). Several others, including two pro-life Labour MPs, put in their apologies.
“I would normally say welcome to Parliament,” Mr O’Connor told the marchers, “but this place is becoming a house of death [with measures on] abortion, euthanasia. But your voice, your feet, your families here today bring change.”
There was a small counter-protest at Parliament, involving a handful of people, who stood silently beside a fence.There was also some pro-abortion graffiti at Civic Square.