I rolled out of bed at 05:30 on the morning of 2 September 2023 to say my prayers and get down to church in time to count a group on to a coach leaving for London. Many of them had attended March for Life in previous years, but for me it was to be a new experience. I’d like to share something of that experience, to provide, God willing, a taste of the march and encouragement to those considering joining us at future events.
We arrived at the Emmanuel Centre in Westminster in good time and by 10:30 Lifefest was well underway, with talks in the auditorium and a pro-life fair to mosey around. No sooner had I arrived than I ran into some friends from Rachel’s Vineyard and found myself doing some impromptu volunteering on a stall, meaning that I had the privilege of meeting many marchers and volunteers.
I did, however, find time to have a look around the other stalls and catch a few of the speakers. The talks comprising the Engage training focused on discussing the issue of abortion in a compassionate and fruitful way, both in terms of effective argumentation and maintaining a humane focus. One speaker, Eden, drew on personal experience to reflect upon the issue of stigma around various disabilities leading to children with certain conditions being far more likely to become victims of abortion, while others offered guidance on the ins and outs of pro-life apologetics. It can be easy when considering these issues to get overwhelmed with the emotional side of things, or, on the hand, to get lost in the intellectual, but the speakers this year found a good balance in my view.
Meanwhile, elsewhere children’s activities were taking place, with everything from arts and crafts to talks for teenagers. I heard more than a few people comment to the effect that it was wonderful and encouraging to see so many families in attendance.
At 13:30 we took up our signs and banners and marched. In my last blog, I expressed a hope that people of every walk and way of life — men and women, young and old, black and white, Christians of all kinds as well as non-Christians — would increasingly come together to speak out about abortion. I was thrilled, then, to find myself amid a crowd of astonishing diversity of age, race, religious and political belief, many having travelled great distances, to declare with one voice that the right to life belongs to all.
The Catholics were out in force, of course, including many priests and religious, but the march was by no means a Catholic procession. There were Protestants singing worship songs and a group from Orthodox for Life carrying icons and chanting the ancient Trisagion Hymn. There were people of no faith. There were the more conservative, such as English pro-life champion Rev. Calvin Robinson, who I had the pleasure of meeting. Then there were those who lean more to the left, for instance, an Anglican couple who commented to me that it felt odd seeing the counter-protest as their politics no doubt aligned in many ways with the abortion supporters’ — yet for them the sanctity of life transcended political allegiances.
Which brings me to Parliament Square, where the march ended. As the green filled with marchers we heard more moving stories. We also heard such inane chants as ‘Keep your rosaries off my ovaries!’ coming from the other side of the police line. As we listened to Ellie, a young lady who bore powerful witness to the horror and grief of abortion, the crowd of assembled abortion supporters doubled their efforts to drown out her story. I couldn’t help but notice, as I’m sure many others did, the stark contrast between the openness of the speakers and the compassion of the pro-life crowd vs. the mask-wearing abortion supporters’ incoherent sloganeering and attempts to shout down their opposition. It was like night and day.
I’ll be back next year, and I trust that I’ll see many new faces as the pro-life movement in Britain continues to grow. This year, despite train strikes, there was no reduction in the number of marchers according to police estimates. Alexandr Solzhenitsyn famously wrote, ‘One man who stopped lying could bring down a tyranny.’ At March for Life 2023, approximately 7,000 people took to the streets to oppose the lie that abortion is morally acceptable. If you’re considering joining us next year, I would encourage you to do so, whoever you are, whether you have personally suffered loss due to abortion or not. Join a growing movement standing up for the truth and for the most vulnerable in our society. You will make a difference and you will not regret it.