March for Life: the day the pro-life movement came to London

March for Life UK 2018 (courtesy John Aron)

March for Life 2018 was an event filled with firsts, not least that it was in London! As Bishop John Keenan said: “Well done to Birmingham for beginning it in 2012. The move to London shows that the pro-Life movement has taken on prominence. This is truly an international march.” An estimated 4,000 people (a record!) marched in glorious weather, finishing—for the first time—outside the very place where the abortion laws were made—and where they could be struck down.

The March was preceded by the first ever All Night Vigil for Life at the Dominican Rosary Shrine. At the opening Mass, Abbot Christopher Jamison OSB drew the connection between the English Martyrs (whose feast day it was), the modern martyrs—such as the 21 Coptic Christians martyred in Libya in 2014—and the slaughter of the unborn.

A torch-lit Eucharistic rosary procession and a talk on Our Lady of Guadeloupe followed. At midnight a good turnout of stalwarts settled in for the duration as Silent Adoration continued through the night. As the morning sun bathed the Exposition throne and its Divine Occupant in glorious light, the Vigil concluded with Benediction followed by Mass.

It was time to head off to a LifeFest taking place entirely undercover (another first!) in the luxurious De Vere Connaught rooms. Naturally, since we had a roof this year, the rain stayed away—but no one was complaining! A morning programme bursting with talks, workshops, and activities wrapped up at midday, as everyone—or at least as many as could fit!—crowded into the Grand Hall.

There was silence as Christie Spurling, CEO of N-Gage, who was conceived in rape, addressed the crowd—but as Clare McCullough from the Good Counsel Network told us later, sometimes police will tell a woman pregnant after rape that unless she has an abortion, they will not believe she has been raped!

There was silence as Charlotte Fien, (the first person with Down Syndrome to address a March for Life), spoke about how Ireland is one of the only countries in the world where people with her condition are safe in the womb—90% of mainland UK babies with Down Syndrome are aborted up to birth.

The first celebrity to attend the march was up last, Joy Villa, who recently scandalised mainstream culture by wearing a pro-life dress to the Grammies: “Today we are going to rock London for Life! Let them see how loving and joyful we are and let their hearts and minds be changed!”

Then it was time to march—for the first time—through the busy, sun-soaked streets of London. “We’re here to stand for life and because Jesus wants us to be here,” said Sr Faustina of the Franciscans of the Renewal.

“I believe in true justice and that everyone has a right to life,” said Fiona Johnston, who’d travelled down from Newcastle. “Everyone has the entitlement to feel the sun, the wind, to see the flowers, the mountains and the sky, and to feel love. I notice everyone who is for abortion has already been born.”

A nearby placard made the same poignant point: “To an unborn child, abortion is the end of the world.”

“If you can’t defend life, then what’s worth defending?” Fr David Marsden, from Oscott College, told me—towering above me in particularly clear illustration of the fact that when it comes to the right to life, size doesn’t matter!

Passing an unusually small and well-behaved group of pro-abortion supporters (maybe they had done a bit of self-policing after the shameful behaviour last year?) we finished in Parliament Square, where Rachel MacKenzie of Rachel’s Vineyard spoke movingly about how the abortion of her second son, Jude, left her unable to have children, but the turning point in her journey of denial and grief came when a priest told her, “It’s not that you can’t be a mother—you are a mother.”

Yet another first followed: seven women of all ethnicities and religions brought their babies up on stage, just a few representatives of all the women who went to the Ealing abortion centre simply because they couldn’t find the help they needed—but were offered it outside by the—now tragically outlawed—vigil.

Finally, the first ever Anglican bishop to attend the March for Life, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, said the closing prayer—after assuring everyone that he’d left home clean and tidy, and the pro-abortion activists were responsible for his appearance. Clearly, the self-policing hadn’t entirely worked!

I overheard a small child gravely explaining the protestors to a little friend: “They’re really bad people—they don’t want to pray the rosary and stuff.”

But Rachel McKenzie had the best response to this: “We are not called to like pro-abortion groups—we are called to love them, because every life deserves love.”