In 2013, participants at the March for the Babies in Melbourne were shocked to be met by unprecedented violence and opposition. That was the first march I had ever attended, and I was shaken by the hatred and aggression levelled at the 3,000 attendees. Victorian police received 200 complaints about their failure to intervene, and the conflict saw an extraordinary level of media coverage. The march has been held every year since 2009, and organisers were determined to carry on regardless of the hostility.
Last October, pro-lifers rallied together and turned out in record numbers. Official police estimates put attendance at 7,000, more than double the previous year! Of course, the counter-protesters returned as well, but the contrast couldn’t have been clearer; the march was led by mounted police and protesters were kept well away. On the few occasions that counter-protesters tried to breach police lines, they were swiftly dealt with. Watching the police walking beside us and ringing the protestors in, it was obvious there was nothing to fear. I would like to say here and now that the Victorian police force is to be commended for their efforts in protecting freedom of speech.
Counter-protesters did their best to disrupt the march, standing behind the cordons and screaming abuse at both police and the pro-lifers. They waved signs with slogans like “The only good baby is a dead baby,” and stood behind the vandalised March for the Babies banner they stole last year. But, despite their efforts, the street outside Parliament House was filled with thousands of people. Speakers included liberal backbenchers Michael Gidley and Jan Kronberg, president of Youth for Life Stephanie Ross, Kay Painter (from Remembering Sara), and international speaker Lord Christopher Monckton. State MP Bernie Finn vowed the pro-life movement would not stop campaigning until we won. In a surprise to most participants, the march also continued on to Melbourne’s longest running abortion facility.
The march is an opportunity for pro-lifers to come together, stand up, and be seen – but despite the numbers, mainstream media coverage was limited to a handful of words in a few newspaper articles. 7,000 people is a record, but it isn’t enough. I attended with a group of university students from Campion College organised by Frances Hopkins, and we were astonished to learn that we were the first and only group to ever travel from interstate! America’s March for Life, held in Washington, D.C., every January, sees people travel from every state in the country; alone, in families, in small groups, and in convoys of buses. They travel for days and every year, more half a million people walk the streets as a pro-life witness. Imagine the impact this could have! To put it into perspective, the March for the Babies Facebook page has only 2,561 Facebook ‘likes’.
Last year’s sudden increase in numbers has sent a clear message; we are here, we will be heard, and we will not be frightened away by hatred and opposition. But we need to do more than that. We need to come together in greater numbers than ever before; we need to travel from every state and territory, from all walks of life. We need to stand together and show our politicians that all life has value; that these laws are unacceptable and we will not rest until they are changed!
– Susan Thring, teacher’s aide, music tutor, and pro-life activist and speaker since age 14