Approximately 1,500 people participated in the 18th Annual Walk and Rally for Life on Tuesday evening, 17th May, making it the largest rally since 1998, when abortion was legalised in Western Australia.
The evening commenced at St Mary’s Cathedral with introductory comments from Dwight Randall, President of the Coalition for the Defence of Human Life and Director of Life Ministries. This was followed by the singing of “How Deep the Father’s Love” led by the Heritage Concert Band from the Free Reformed Churches. Fr John Piumatti then read a statement from the former Catholic Archbishop of Perth, Barry Hickey, prior to leading the gathering in prayer. Archbishop Hickey’s statement read:
I warmly greet all of you as you publicly give witness to the sanctity of human life today. Although I cannot be with you I am praying for you. I am also praying for those who oppose you and refuse to acknowledge the truth about life from God. As John’s Gospel puts it, “…men have shown they prefer darkness to the light” (John 3:19).
In these days when abortion has become so entrenched in our society, your witness to life is absolutely critical if attitudes are to change. You are a light shining in that darkness. Through the power of the Holy Spirit may it shine evermore brightly. May God bless you all.”
The gathering then walked in procession from St Mary’s Cathedral in Victoria Square through downtown Perth to Parliament House. At Parliament House Dwight Randall addressed the crowd:
Dear people gathered here tonight, on behalf of the Coalition for the Defence of Human Life, consisting of 16 pro-life organisations that have affiliated to work together, thank you so much for participating in this, the 18th Annual Walk and Rally for Life.
It is distressing to consider the magnitude of the killing of unborn children in Western Australia. Over the past 18 years unborn babies have been killed, with the sanction of the state, at the average rate of 22 per day, or 8,000 per year.
May 26th, 2016 will mark the 18th anniversary of the passage of the Acts Amendment (Abortion) Bill 1998, the most callous piece of legislation that has ever been passed by our parliament. Since then, some 149,000 children have been robbed of life.
In 2015, the last complete year for statistics, 8,105 unborn children were aborted. 580 abortions were performed on babies over 12 weeks gestation—babies with little faces, arms and legs, hands and feet, fingers and toes—miniatures of ourselves. 73 abortions were performed at King Edward Memorial Hospital on babies at 20 weeks gestation or later. It is likely that many of these babies were at or beyond the age of viability, in other words, capable of survival outside of the womb.
We pause to mourn for these 149,000 children, who have been deprived of life. Eighteen years ago, when abortion was legalised, we solemnly pledged to remember these little children who were forgotten by this parliament, but will not be forgotten by us, now, or ever.
In addition, our hearts go out to the thousands upon thousands of women who have been harmed by abortion, regardless of whether it was their choice, made easier by the passage of the legislation, or whether they were pressured by others. We hope and pray that they will come to find forgiveness and peace.
Will you please join with me in a minute of silence as we mourn the loss of these 149,000 children, as we remember their mothers, and others who have been harmed under this legislation? With heads bowed, let us remember them, and let us pray for strength to continue this fight until abortion is brought to a halt. In silence, let us remember them …
After the minute of silence, the gathering, led by Dwight, recognised the work of several organisations that have faithfully extended compassionate help to pregnant women. He said:
Often, when there is great injustice, Christians rise up and offer compassionate solutions. Even prior to the passage of our state’s abortion laws, compassionate and practical help was already being provided to pregnant women.
You will remember that a moment ago I said that in 2015, 8,105 unborn children were robbed of life. This is a heartbreaking number, and yet is encouraging to know that the total number of abortions dropped by 359 over the 2014 numbers, or almost 4 ½ percent. And this, at a time when the population in WA was steadily rising.
Without a doubt, this is in part because of the compassionate work of several organisations that have played a crucial role in offering help to pregnant women in Western Australia. Without their service, the toll of women harmed and children killed would be substantially higher. We honour those who have faithfully stood for life.
We recognise the work of Peter O’Meara and all those who have served with Right to Life Association WA. In 1976, Peter helped form the Right to Life Association W.A. and became its President. Over the last 40 years, the association has run a counselling service and provided practical help, in the form of food, clothing, housing, furniture and baby equipment to many mothers, children and families. We honour Peter and the team at Right to Life Association WA this evening.
We also recognise the work of Brian Peachey and all those who have served with Pregnancy Assistance. In 1996 Brian founded Pregnancy Assistance and became its inaugural chairman. Over the last 20 years Pregnancy Assistance has faithfully provided compassionate and practical support, including accommodation, to hundreds of women. We honour Brian and the team from Pregnancy Assistance this evening.
We also recognise the work of Colleen Tapley and the people connected with Pregnancy and Life Education Ministries. In 1996 Colleen founded the ministry and since that time has led a compassionate organisation that has focused on helping post-abortive women find peace with themselves and with God. We honour Colleen tonight.
Over the next minutes, the work of Pregnancy Problem House, which began 30 years ago in 1986 and is about to celebrate its 30 anniversary, was focused on. A video of a grateful young woman and her baby who had received help at the house was screened. After that, Dwight presented an award to the founding coordinator at PPH.
Tonight, it is my pleasure to present a Von Galen-Bonhoeffer Award to Lucy Musgrave. We often admire men who displayed great courage like Clemens August von Galen and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but perhaps we fail to appreciate the determination and courage of women who are on the firing line dealing with abortion-vulnerable women, day after day, and year after year. Lucy is one of these courageous women, and we want to recognise her, and the organisation she has served—Pregnancy Problem House—tonight. Her award reads:
“Lucy Musgrave is a worthy recipient of the Von Galen-Bonhoeffer Award for Outstanding Leadership in the defence of human life.
“For a quarter of a century Lucy Musgrave was the backbone and heart of Pregnancy Problem House, where she served as the founding coordinator.
“Lucy had been a young single mother herself, and thus she had deep empathy for pregnant women, and showed com-passion and gentleness to them. Many of these women embraced life for their children, and found support for their families. Others experienced healing after past abortions.
“Lucy was beloved by the team at Pregnancy Problem House, whom she prayed for and encouraged as they ministered to vulnerable women. She was an outstanding example of Christlike, life-affirming compassion to every person with whom she came into contact.
“Through her 25 years of service, Lucy Musgrave helped to establish Pregnancy Problem House as a major agency for the defence of human life in Western Australia. She is eminently worthy of this Award, to the glory of God!”
Following the award, the keynote speaker, Joanne Cicchini was introduced. Joanne was a founding member of 40 Days for Life in Perth and the person who organised this year’s peaceful vigil. The text of Joanne’s speech is below:
My name is Joanne Cicchini and I am the Vigil Coordinator and acting Director of 40 Days for Life here in Perth.
If you have not heard of 40 Days for Life, it is a global movement where people fast and pray outside abortion clinics around the world. While outside of the clinic, tangible help is also offered to women, men and families through different support agencies.
Due to these prayer vigils across the world, thousands of lives have been saved, clinic workers have left their jobs and abortion clinics have been closed down permanently.
Since we started 40 Day prayer vigils in Perth in 2011, we know of at least 37 children who are alive today because parents changed their minds right at death’s door. This is over a full classroom of children and we are only there for 40 days out of 365! Imagine if we were there every day?
One sign we used reads, “Your Baby Needs a Hero”, which is obviously aimed at men. After reading this sign two men went in to retrieve their wives.
One of the men came over to us and said, “We have decided to keep our baby…we just wanted to come over and thank you for being here.”
On another occasion, a young woman who went into the clinic observed a man on his knees praying alone next to a sign with a help number on it. As she was waiting in the waiting room, she felt a sense of overwhelming love for her child and left the clinic. She did not speak to the man, but recalled the phone number and turned up at the Pregnancy Resource Centre two weeks later and found sanctuary for herself and her baby!
And now I want to share with you just a bit about an early experience of mine. In 1994, when I was 20 years old I lost my daughter Angel Lee at 22 weeks’ gestation due to immense stress caused by domestic violence and alcoholism on the part of her father. I gave birth to Angel who died moments later and couldn’t be resuscitated.
Even when I was in labour, I thought I was going to give birth to something that was half blob, half human. Yet, she was fully developed, had the features of both of her parents and was just the length of my forearm. After spending this time with her, I understood then, the full humanity of an unborn child in the womb.
I also understand what it’s like to go home with an empty womb.
Fast forward many years later and I am standing in front of an abortion clinic involved in prayer vigils and I meet a pregnant mum going into the clinic for an abortion.
We had so much in common! It was incredible and I felt like I was speaking to a younger version of myself.
I was able to share my story with her and explain the ways in which we could give her free help and support. She began to cry and then laughed and gave me a huge hug. I asked, “Do you want to get out of here”, to which she replied, “Yep, let’s do it.” So I drove her home.
We exchanged contact details and she took up the free help offered to her from a local Pregnancy Resource Centre throughout her pregnancy and beyond.
I was given the privilege of going to the hospital and holding her baby. I’m not sure if I can adequately describe this feeling—to know how close this child was to death and now to be holding and kissing this baby. It was like waiting for my own child to be born! This child will be treasured and loved forever!
May I ask you, “Who is going to offer sanctuary for these mothers and their babies if we don’t?”
I want to speak to the young people here for a moment. You need to be ready and available to have the Pro-Life baton passed on to you. There are people in their 80’s who have been doing this work for decades.
When preparing for 40 Days and looking for volunteers, I noted that some of these faithful people were unable to join in. A wife was having a hip replacement, a husband died of cancer, and one of my shift marshals has cancer. This is the final season of their lives, a time when they are entitled to rest, and yet they continue to stand on the front lines.
Young people, it is time for you to put your convictions into action. It is easy for society to form the impression that these old judgemental fuddy duddies are not up with the times and they wouldn’t have a clue about young people these days. I know if I saw young people quietly praying outside of an abortion clinic, it would resonate with me and with many people. Young people, you can bring about change! Please think about whatever skills and gifts you have and work hard to turn around this culture.
Former Senator Joe Bullock then addressed the gathering. His edited speech is printed on page 11 in this edition of Life News.
A video was then screened in which Dr Rachel Carling-Jenkins spoke of her efforts to stop late-term abortions in Victoria. (Sadly, the Victorian Legislative Council voted down the Infant Viability Bill on a vote of 11 for, 27 against, and two abstentions.)
The Hon Nick Goiran, MLC, was the first of five Western Australian Members of Parliament to address the gathering. He said:
I am greatly encouraged to see a record number of people standing in the gap for the unborn at the 2016 Annual Walk and Rally for Life. I commend the efforts of the Coalition for the Defence of Human Life for persevering and co-ordinating this rally since 1999.
During my time in Parliament, I have had the opportunity to pursue the truth behind post 20 week abortions with the goal of creating some accountability and transparency, and with the aspiration of having less late term abortions. In this quest I have uncovered that these late term abortions were being performed beyond the intent of the legislation, namely for conditions clearly compatible with life such as down syndrome, spinabifida, dwarfism and even an upper limb abnormality.
It was this discovery that led the now former Minister for Health to order the creation of an annual report. The first such report was provided in August last year. That is a win for accountability. Sadly, although I have had the opportunity to read this report it has not been released to the public. Accountability is weak whenever transparency is avoided. Self-reporting by the panel who approves these late-term abortions cannot be considered authentically accountable when the report itself remains secret.
I intend to continue to press for the release of this report (and all future annual reports) as only then will Western Australians be able to know whether the law created in 1998 is currently being adhered to or not.
Other Members of Parliament who spoke included: Michelle Roberts, MLA, Member for Midland; Peter Abetz, MLA, Member for Southern River; Margaret Quirk, MLA, Member for Girrawheen; and Dr Graham Jacobs, MLA, Member for Eyre.
Members of Parliament who attended the rally but didn’t speak included: the Hon Simon O’Brien, MLC, Member for South Metro; Matt Taylor, MLA, Member for Bateman; Glenys Godfrey, MLA, Member for Belmont; Frank Alban, MLA, Member for Swan Hills; Kate Doust, MLC, Member for South Metropolitan; and Libby Mettam, MLA, Member for Vasse
Members of Parliament who were unable to attend the rally and sent their apologies included: Hon Alyssa Hayden MLC, Member for East Metro; Bill Johnston, MLA, Member for Cannington; Mr Ian Britza, MLA, Member for Morley; Hon John Castrilli, MLA, Member for Bunbury; and Peter Katsambanis, MLC, Member for North Metro.
The last speaker was not a Member of Parliament, but the National Director and Senate candidate for Australian Christians, Lindsay Cameron, who spoke of Australian Christians absolute commitment to the sanctity of life.