Despite a national rail strike the numbers were not down at this year’s March for Life. Police estimated that 7,000 pro-life attendees of all ages, including a large contingent of youth, filled Parliament Square on Saturday to show their support for the 2023 event, which had the theme ‘Freedom to Live’. A growing number of abortion supporters, comprising various groups, were also present in a counter protest but it seemed like nothing could dampen the spirits of the March for Life crowd as they sang, danced and prayed their way along the streets.
Religious leaders from various Christian denominations showed their support for the cause by joining together in a demonstration of solidarity. Catholic bishops John Sherrington, Richard Moth and John Keenan, took to the stage alongside Monsignor Keith Newton of the Ordinariate. Various Anglican priests were present along with regular supporters, Rev Calvin Robinson from the Free Church of England and Regan King from the Angel Church.
The annual public witness, now in its ninth year, processed in a lively manner through Westminster before stopping for the keynote speeches. Speakers included Lois McClatchie-Miller from ADF (Alliance Defending Freedom) who told the crowd: ‘The apparently ‘empowering’ mantra of ‘my body, my choice’ has led to a deficit of male responsibility, allowing men to shrug and say ‘your body, your choice, your problem’.
Scott Klusendorf, president of The Life Training Institute urged attendees to enter into conversations with those around them on abortion, but reminded them that ‘we need to have the confidence to make our case persuasively‘.
Co-director of the event Isabel Vaughan-Spruce shared her experience of being arrested for praying silently near an abortion centre. ‘On the second time I was arrested I was told my prayers were an offence. I’ll tell you what is offensive,’ she said, ‘That our country has the highest ever abortion figures, 100,000 of them annually being repeat abortions and the only response we see happening in or government is a clamp down on those who peacefully offer alternatives to pregnant women.’
The morning indoor pro-life festival at The Emmanuel Centre, now an established part of the day, was also well attended. This consisted of sessions for children of all ages, stalls from various pro-life organisations and a training session for a new outreach project named ‘Engage’ which was described by one of the participants, Theo, as ‘A way of connecting with the public on this key topic and starting a respectful conversation in a meaningful and productive way’.
The most moving words of the day came from Ellie, a young woman who spoke of her deep regret at having three abortions. Ellie had to raise her voice to be heard above the nearby abortion supporters who attempted to shout her down ‘I instinctively knew when it was time to go to the toilet and deliver my baby,’ Ellie said. ‘That moment of separation is burned into my memory forever.’ Ellie continued to share the effects of her abortion and of others she knew.
‘I think I can speak for every post-abortive woman stood here today that abortion didn’t grant us freedom, but made us captives in one way or another,’ she said.
Co-director Ben Thatcher shared how at the end of the day a young man who had been present throughout asked for a March for Life poster to take home with him saying ‘I want to tell my church where I’ve been today and what I’ve heard’. Ben promised the event would be back in September 2024 to celebrate March for Life UK’s 10th anniversary and shared his hope that there would be 10,000 supporters participating next year.