Strong, clear Christian witness at March for Life

May 8, 2018 by

by Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream.

Saturday’s (5th May) rally in London in support of unborn children and their mothers concluded in a sunny Parliament Square, with a large crowd standing quietly, heads bowed, as Bishop Michael Nazir Ali read some well-known Scriptures as evidence for the sanctity of human life in the womb from conception, and then led a prayer and a blessing. It was a great encouragement to be part of such a large group in agreement together as God’s word was declared with calm authority in front of the nation’s seat of government.

The colourfully-dressed and banner-waving group of many hundreds had walked from a venue in Holborn, where most attended morning seminars and speeches, to Westminster, where they briefly had to move past a much smaller but vociferous contingent of pro-abortion activists.

Though drawn from different movements, the participants in the March for Life were united behind the simple slogans such as “Life from conception – no exception”, “every life deserves love”, and “pro-life=pro-woman”. It was clear that peacefully and publicly walking through the capital’s streets, and standing together outside Parliament for the rights of the unborn can be a powerful symbol for lawmakers and public alike.

Some differences in approach were in evidence at the pre-rally seminars held at a Holborn hotel. I listened to Christian Hacking from Abort 67 argue from historical examples that social change never comes from gaining respect from the ruling classes for being nice and reasonable. Just as the anti-slavery campaigners upset polite society by using shocking images of packed bodies in slave ships, and suffragettes chained themselves to railings, so a more aggressive approach is necessary to change public opinion and national policy on abortion, for example by displaying graphic pictures of aborted foetuses. Others disagreed, saying that the culture should be changed “one conversation at a time”, using existing friendly relationships to push the pro-life case.

For some, the aim of campaigning should be to make the ending of a child’s life in the womb socially and legally unacceptable. Others are taking a more pragmatic approach, hoping realistically for a significant reduction in the number of abortions being carried out. A number of speakers focussed on the need for proper compassionate and informative counselling to be more available for women considering abortions (who often feel that it is the only ‘choice’ open to them), and help, healing and the mediation of God’s forgiveness for those suffering from the guilt and trauma of having gone through with the procedure. The speaker from the Rachel’s Vineyard ministry was particularly moving and impressive, relating how God had used her own traumatic experience of crushing guilt after abortion to help other women. The decision of Ealing Council to create “buffer zones”, preventing such ministry being advertised and even preventing prayer within a specified distance of an abortion clinic, was decried as especially pernicious (see also here).

Anthony McCarthy of SPUC argued that a strong stand needs to be taken against further liberalisation of the abortion laws. Leaders of professional bodies such as the Royal College of Midwives and even the BMA have recently given public support to the idea that abortion should be completely decriminalised and unrestricted – that there should be no legal limits to the age of the foetus being aborted (baby being killed), and no social stigma for the woman who has made that choice. Senior midwives have decided that their profession is no longer about bringing babies into the world, but about facilitating the choices of adults, even if that means destroying a little life.

This new class of medical professional see unwanted pregnancy as a pathology, restricting women in their ideal state of “unencumbered autonomous human”, and abortion completely on demand as a form of liberation. According to McCarthy, this is not only deeply misogynistic (women must be “like men”); and it involves a corruption and politicization of medical ethics, a hollowing-out of the Hippocratic Oath, which will certainly have dangerous consequences when applied to other areas of life.

In a plenary session before the main March, short powerful speeches made further important points. Charlotte Fien, a young woman with Down’s Syndrome who has spoken at the U.N., and Christie Spurling, given up for adoption, delinquent teenager, and now running a respected youth ministry as an adult, shared how in both cases their lives were nearly ended in the womb. Delegates from Ireland gave updates on the campaign to protect the unborn child’s right to life in view of the forthcoming Referendum. Scottish Catholic Bishop John Keegan gave a passionate call to prayer, saying that the nation needs not just better laws but God’s forgiveness and grace. Aisling Hubert, who bravely highlighted the commonplace practice of doctors signing off abortions because the baby is female, in an assured speech urged women to take a stand against the lie that children are somehow the enemy.

There was a strong Roman Catholic presence among the majority of participants in the seminars, march and rally, although evangelical group Christian Concern was responsible for much of the organizing. While Bishop Michael ensured an Anglican voice, I didn’t see a single other Anglican known to me, lay or ordained. There are many Anglican evangelical supporters of the pro-life cause who are quiet, perhaps because of seeing the issue as “right-wing” (although there was nothing party-political in any of the messages), too controversial, or the preserve of Catholics. It would be wonderful if more could attend the event next year.

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