From Mr Tony Bond SIR – The Catholic Herald is to be complimented on its recent endeavour to promote pro-life efforts, starting with the leading article (January 28) proposing a March for Life, followed by John de Waal’s opinion piece (February 4) suggesting, inter alia, that the various pro-life organisations might unite.
It is heartening to see the number of contributors still engaged in this discussion. Sadly noticeable by its absence, though, is any contribution by pro-life organisations. In particular, it would be interesting to hear why they abandoned – without consulting members – their original, highly effective strategy of pro-life marches, such as the Hyde Park rallies and mass lobbies of Parliament which attracted upwards of 80,000 people initially and still drew some 20,000 in 1979.
Compare that to the 3,000 wonderful, but numerically negligible as a political force, supporters drawn to the 2007 march marking the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Abortion Act, illustrating the extent to which pro-lifers have lost the habit and will to demonstrate in public, following the abandonment of regular marches. Self-evidently, public shows of pro-life strength are the most effective way of keeping the abortion issue alive, energising supporters, bringing together members of different pro-life organisations who give greater strength to the whole by the very differentness and variety of their various charisms, bringing the pro-life message to a public that would not otherwise hear it, attracting celebrities such as Mother Teresa and Malcolm Muggeridge, who spoke at early Hyde Park rallies, and encouraging pro-life MPs. The latter used to say how much they valued the moral support that mass lobbies of Parliament gave them, resulting in a wealth of Private Members’ Bills attempting to curb abortion, which have dried up since pro-life organisations surrendered this important weapon in their armoury.
In America, annual pro-life marches contribute mightily to keeping abortion a “hot button” issue, influencing elections and the Republican Party platform whereas, here, it is now virtually a non-issue politically. Thankfully, though, pro-life marches now take place in France, Spain, Italy, Belgium and Holland. So why not here where they first started? SPUC, for one, does vital behind-the-scenes work educating the next generation of opinion formers and decision-makers and helping to hold back even worse anti-life and antifamily pressures at the UN, EU and other international forums. But such efforts would, logically, be potentiated if SPUC were seen to be not only a lobby group/NGO, but to represent a sizeable constituency of voters prepared to put public pressure on their elected representatives, which is the nature of democracy.
As you suggest, a national, pro-life, march should be reintroduced as a key part of efforts to roll back the evil of abortion; but as Catholics we should also pray, collectively, for the abolition of this and other manifestations of the culture of death. We do this in the bidding prayers at the church I attend St Pancras in Ipswich – and it would surely bear much fruit if our bishops encouraged all churches to do the same. Yours faithfully, TONY BOND Kesgrave, Suffolk