Monica Doumit: We will never be silenced

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LifeChoice Australia Director Rebecca Gosper takes part in a peaceful pro-life demonstration outside the NSW Parliament PHOTO: GIOVANNI PORTELLI

This week marks one year since abortion was decriminalised in New South Wales. One year since that horrid bill, the product of dodgy and secretive deals, was passed by parliament to cheers and applause from people who really should have known and done better.

One year since unborn children, and their mothers, were caught in the middle of political expediency.

Yes, I know I still sound bitter. It’s hard to forget just how heartbreaking the result was after two months of fighting.

To mark the anniversary, LifeChoice Australia, one of the most formidable campaign groups during that time, has launched an initiative entitled ‘Not forgotten.

There is a lot about that abortion legislation that I will never forget.

Most importantly, those we will not and must not forget are the tens of thousands of children who were aborted in NSW in the year since the bill was passed.

Not forgotten are their mothers, many of whom made the decision to abort because they believed they had no other choice. We do not forget the fathers of these children, either.

Some of them coerced their partners into abortion, some consented, others didn’t even know their child existed. Not forgotten are the brothers and sisters, grandparents and cousins, and others who will not get to know their family member; at least not this side of heaven.

Not forgotten is the “fundamental failure of democratic process,” as the Honourable Tony Abbott described it: the bill had been developed in secret, its drafters simultaneously able to keep it concealed while obtaining 15 co-sponsors before news of the bill reached the public. It had been intended to be rushed through parliament in less than a week.

Protesters crowd into Martin Place on Tuesday 20 August to stand for unborn life. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

A parliamentary inquiry, or at least the veneer of one, was eventually held.

Somewhere between two to four per cent of the more than 13,000 submissions were processed by parliamentary staff.

Given that 97 per cent of the submissions reviewed were opposed to the bill, they were roundly ignored.

During the debate, even reasonable amendments were shouted – and voted – down.

But also, not forgotten, are those who stood for life.

Not forgotten are the members of parliament, Liberal and Labor, Christian Democrats, Shooters and One Nation who objected to the disastrous process by which the bill was put through parliament.

We will not forget those members who raised their voices at rallies, nor those who spoke bravely and consistently in parliament – often in the face of hostility and verbal abuse – in defence of life.

Not forgotten are the thousands who rallied in Martin Place and Hyde Park, and the smaller, yet faithful group who kept round-the-clock vigils outside Parliament House and inside St Mary’s Cathedral.

Nor will we forget so many who phoned or wrote to their local MP, or made a submission to the parliamentary inquiry: for many, it was their first exercise in political activism, but they did it like professional lobbyists.

CEO of NSW Right to Life Rachel Carling addresses a rally on 1 August outside NSW Parliament House to oppose the abortion bill. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Not forgotten is how senior religious leaders came together to oppose the bill. I understand that the rally in Martin Place was the first time ever that the Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox Archbishops shared a stage (or more correctly, a bench.)

They were joined by many other religious leaders, each of them leading their flocks in the truth that a human being has an inalienable dignity and should be protected from conception until natural death.

Not forgotten are the priests and other religious ministers who spoke about abortion from the pulpit or in other places, being able to express the gravity of abortion and the parliamentary vote, while reminding congregants of God’s love and mercy for those who have participated in, or encouraged, this great evil.

Many of them accompanied groups of their parishioners to the rallies held in Sydney; they were truly shepherds.

Not forgotten are the pro-life leaders who also came together to fight this unconscionable law, often left hoarse at the end of the day from all their activity in defence of life.

Not forgotten are the prayers that were prayed nor the tears that were wept. We haven’t forgotten them, and most importantly, God hasn’t forgotten them either.

As we mark this solemn anniversary, I want to say one more thing: as horrible as last year’s result was, it would be more horrible if no lessons were learned or no progress made.

I want you to know that since that time, despite the loss, those who came together last year to oppose the bill have grown stronger and more united in our defence of life and other forms of political engagement.

Politicians who want to try a similar ploy with euthanasia or attacks on religious freedom do so at their own peril. Because we have not forgotten.