May 25 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

8-MARCH-FOR-LIFE

London calling: the March for Life 2018

The March for Life was held in London for the first time this year. Here, SPUC Scotland’s Louise Grant and Emmet Dooley, and Colette McCourt from Dundee, explain what the event meant to them and why it was so inspirational at a time when pro-lifers are under renewed pressure to abandon public forms of witness

 

Colette McCourt, 16

“Shame on you, shame on you!” Having this screamed at us on our entry into Parliament Square on the final leg of the March for Life 2018, I was blown away by the anger directed our way from the 70 or so pro-abortion activists waiting to greet us. It made me sad. How could these women get our intentions so wrong?

I really should have been studying for my Higher exams but felt, having been given the opportunity, it was important to join the many pro-life groups getting together to speak up for the most vulnerable in our society, the unborn child and their mothers.

Our day started with a number of inspiring speakers, including one who spoke about the trauma he endured being told by his adoptive parents that he was the product of rape.

He understandably fell into a pattern of self-destructive behaviour, feeling very negative about himself and all around him. His story of how he turned his life around by becoming a youth worker to help others was humbling. What struck me was how thankful he felt to his mother for giving him the chance to live and his determination to pay back her love and sacrifice by serving others.

We also heard from Charlotte Fien, a 21-year-old woman with Down’s syndrome. I could never have stood up in front of such a huge crowd to speak. But Charlotte engaged us with confidence and passion about the discrimination unborn children with the condition face. I later found out Charlotte does a great deal of public speaking having been invited to address the United Nations among others. Down’s syndrome has almost been eradicated in Iceland due to screening and in England and Wales 90 per cent of the unborn diagnosed with Down’s syndrome are aborted.

We were then briefed on the code of conduct for our march. The theme of the March was ‘Every Life Deserves Love’ and this was highlighted to us in how to behave when we were reminded that ‘every person is part of God’s plan of Salvation’ regardless of their views on abortion, and all should be treated with love and respect.

The March itself was wonderful. It was so nice to be part of such a large group of people all making a very public statement about the sanctity of life. I marched with my older brother and Sr Jess from the Sisters of the Gospel of Life, a pro-life initiative in Glasgow which helps women in crisis pregnancy. Once we had ‘run the gauntlet’ past Sister Supporter and other pro-abortion activists, we gathered in Parliament Square.

There we heard from Rachael McKenzie who works for Rachael’s Vineyard, a post-abortion counselling service. Her speech was raw and harrowing. Her testimony of the two sons she had ‘murdered’ through abortion was heart-breaking. As hard as it was to hear her story, it did give me hope that those who protested against us with screams and chants might hear what she has to say and recognise something in themselves in her story that might bring them healing.

We also heard from Clare McCollough, founder of the Good Counsel Network. Clare’s group has had a great deal of press recently (none of it positive) regarding the enforcement of buffer zones near abortion clinics in England. The Good Counsel Network’s supporters have stood outside abortion clinics in London for 23 years offering women practical help and support as an alternative to abortion, and with no complaints, until recently. With the introduction of a buffer zone by Ealing Council it now means that this help is some 100 metres away from the clinic.

I must admit I did have some reservations about pro-life groups standing outside hospitals and clinics and wasn’t so sure it was a good thing. But after hearing Clare’s speech it made me think again.

We heard from two young women who had been helped by the Good Counsel Network at the Marie Stopes clinic in Ealing. They had both wanted to continue with their pregnancies but with no support felt that abortion was their only option. They both spoke of how the Good Council Network had helped them in so many ways by providing practical and emotional assistance. When they introduced us to their beautiful daughters I realised that any reservations I had about pro-life groups having a quiet presence outside clinics were unfounded. As Clare said: “This is exactly where we need to be.”

I was really glad I had taken the time to attend the March for Life 2018. Being actively pro-life in a society that is either indifferent to or in favour of abortion can be disheartening at times but being at the March for Life really ‘recharged my pro-life batteries’ as my mum and auntie put it.

I was really struck by the anger directed towards us by pro-abortion activists and saddened that they were feeling so aggressive towards us.

I certainly don’t feel shame in standing up for the rights of the unborn child and actively helping their mothers, in fact quite the opposite. As with the other estimated 4,000 people who attended, I know that ‘Every Life Deserves Love.’

 

Louise Grant

‘Life from conception, no exception!’, was the message which echoed through the sunny streets of Central London onSaturday May 5. This year’s theme, Every Life Deserves Love, certainly shone through each witness to life in attendance. The March for Life UK was conceived six years ago in Birmingham, with a few hundred in attendance. The organisers then decided an annual March for Life should take place and momentum has been building ever since. Soon after, a pro-life, pro-family festival called LifeFest arrived.

This year the march made the fitting move to the British capital, bringing more than 4,000 joyful pro-lifers to the streets of London. I was privileged to be asked for the second year in a row to MC the event—this time alongside my colleague Emmet Dooley. Emmet and I work with young people at SPUC Scotland, so it was fun to share the stage with him at LifeFest18.

I was chatting to Isabel—one of the organisers—about the first March for Life UK and I said: “I was there!” She replied: “You were one of the founding participants! Bet you didn’t think that in a few years’ time you’d be MC-ing 4,000!”

How true! Never in a million years did I think I would be MC-ing a pro-life event of several thousand people in Parliament Square. What a privilege to be asked to do it.

I encourage everyone to attend next year’s March and to be bold witnesses to life every day leading up to it. Pray; attend events; be a voice for the voiceless and don’t be afraid to stand up and protect unborn babies and their mothers—be their heroes—and be on the right side of history.

 

Bishop John Keenan

The sun was splitting the rocks, 28C. Not good for my Irish skin, I was told. And I had left the Factor 50 at home, too. The London Irish were out in numbers with Home to Vote banners.

I had the privilege of standing behind all our beautiful young women, stars Joy Villa and Eugu included, who boldly held the front banner which proclaimed the message: “Every Life Deserves Love.”

We were totally unobstructed and unopposed. People took pictures and selfies attracted by the colour and the positive message carried on posters borne by the thousands gathered for the march.

At Westminster a small band of pro-choice protesters were there to welcome us. They were holding graphs of the reproductive system with various obscenities. But we continued, with Rachael McKenzie of Rachael’s Vineyard leading the speeches with her own experience of abortion and how it damaged her. But she said there was hope and healing for her and countless others through her group’s retreats.

The whole London March experience was very different from Birmingham [last year’s march]. It went so smoothly that I can honestly say that the March for Life has found its new home in the UK capital. The icing on the cake came when two women, who the Good Counsel had empowered to choose life, took to the stage with their babies. Tears flowed.

Louise asked me under a sniffle to introduce the next part and I asked all the women the Good Counsel had supported to come up. I said: “Look at this, isn’t life beautiful we are standing on the right side of history.” And each of us can always say we were at the first March for Life London.

 

Emmet Dooley

I barely made my flight from Glasgow and had arranged to meet the March for Life organisers at the Hotel De Vere Connaught Rooms at 2pm on the Friday of the Bank Holiday weekend.

Thanks to Google maps I was able to get lunch, Confession and Mass just before my meeting. I walked into a serious-looking gathering with the March for Life team and the hotel staff discussing security, bag checks, insurance, room layout, sound set-up, exit strategy, etc. There is so much that goes into organising an event being held for the first time in a new city.

I was then informed the hotel and its staff had received threats from pro-choice individuals but to the hotel’s credit this did not deter management from hosting the first March for Life London.

We were given a guided tour of the vast hotel, in which various rooms would host pro-life speakers and groups, workshops and stalls from 9am-noon. Then our focus was turned towards the actual march round Parliament Square at Westminster. When we asked what we should expect, the simple answer was ‘anything.’ As we found the previous year in Birmingham, various other groups attempted to block, sabotage and intimidate the peaceful pro-life marchers. But to quote Jurassic Park, ‘life finds a way,’ and the March journeyed around Birmingham city centre on an alternative route. Would we be met by more of the same or worse in London? Only time would tell.

The day of the march, my colleague Louise and I did an Ant and Dec for the day, introducing a range of pro-life musicians, from the Irish folk band The Mustard Seeds to FaithChild, a London-based rapper and performer whose mother had made up her mind to abort him until she clearly heard God’s voice say: “Have Faith my Child.” Their music lifted spirits and helped set our theme, ‘Every Life Deserves Love.’

We had a hall filled with pro-life material and there was a kids’ corner with face painting, flag-making and other fun things. There were also several breakout areas for workshops throughout the morning, and a prayer room. March for Life UK had some amazing speakers, including a man conceived in incest who is running projects for youth in disadvantaged areas. This shows human life is good regardless of how it was conceived.

Louise had the honour of introducing a fellow Scot: Bishop John Keenan, who has been praised by members of the Good Counsel for speaking up for pro-life on social media. Another inspiring address came from Charlie Fien, the young pro-life activist with Down’s syndrome. Charlie’s passion is inspiring and I have no doubt she is changing many hearts. It was slightly surreal to share a stage with Joy Villa—the singer/songwriter who wore a dress with an image of a human foetus to this year’s Grammy awards. When asked why she was protesting in this way, she said: “I’m not… I’m celebrating.” The image was of her own daughter in the womb.

Joy lit up many faces during her powerful testimony. She spoke of becoming pregnant when young and in no position to raise a child. She still chose life for her daughter and lovingly placed her with an adoptive family.

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

latest features

Food for thought: How Mary’s Meals is working with the Church to bring kids back into education

October 19th, 2018 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS

A diocesan worker in South Sudan tells Ryan Mcdougall how...


A bridge of Faith across continents

October 19th, 2018 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS

In the last of a three-part series, Missio Scotland’s GERARD...


Saving the children from the mean streets of Medellin

October 12th, 2018 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS

Ryan McDougall reveals how a Colombian charity has benefitted from...


Giving street kids a leg up

October 12th, 2018 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS

In the second of a three-part series GERARD GOUGH looks...



Social media

Latest edition

P1-OCT-19-2018

exclusively in the paper

  • Vocations week hears inspiring stories of Faith
  • Trinity pupils roar for pro-life cause with annual fun run
  • Example of Romero brings together Scottish Christians
  • Aid agencies ‘undermining African values’ with abortion
  • Recreating the gardens of Scripture in life and art, by Dr Harry Schnitker

Previous editions

Previous editions of the Scottish Catholic Observer newspaper are only available to subscribed Members. To download previous editions of the paper, please subscribe.

note: registered members only.

Read the SCO