21st Annual Rally for Life

 In Abortion, Life Advocacy, Sanctity of Life

On Tuesday, 14th May 2019 approximately 2,000 people of all ages, including hundreds of young people, gathered on the steps of Parliament House to mark the 21st anniversary of the legalisation of abortion in Western Australia. The following is an edited version of the rally.

Archbishop Emeritus Barry Hickey opened the rally in prayer. He prayed:

Heavenly Father, We are here in the name of Jesus your Son. Before him we want to be true witnesses to your gift of life, especially the protection of the lives of unborn children. May our witness be strong and confident, loving and compassionate. …

Lord of life and love, we plead for forgiveness of all those who have destroyed the lives of the unborn, and for those women who have been grossly misled to believe that abortion is the answer to their problem. …

Strengthen our resolve to defend unborn life. Let our voices be heard tonight here on the steps of Parliament and throughout Australia, for a deep change of heart in this our country. … Amen.

This was followed by the singing of the National Anthem, after which a welcome was extended to Members of Parliament who joined the rally including Mr Tony Krsticevic, MLA; Hon Charles Smith, MLC; Hon Simon O’Brien, MLC; Dr David Honey, MLA; and Margaret Quirk, MLA. Apologies were received from Hon Dr Mike Nahan, MLC, Leader of the Opposition, and Hon Kate Doust, MLC, President of the Legislative Council, who was caught up with duties.

A petition entitled, “Petition in relation to post 20 week abortion” was circulated through the gathering for people to sign.

Dwight Randall, co-chair of the rally then addressed the gathering. He said:

1998 was a dreadful year. For months on end the Parliament of Western Australia debated two abortion on demand bills simultaneously. From the outset it appeared that laws protecting unborn children would be replaced by laws approving their killing. At the first Coalition for the Defence of Human Life Rally that I chaired in 1998 when the two bills were being debated in Parliament, the late Hon Phil Pendal, MLA, publicly expressed the view that we could not hope to win. I thought it was unfortunate that he should concede the fight at its commencement, and so when speaking privately to him I urged him to encourage our side, but he responded to me, “Dwight, we just don’t have the numbers.”  Phil was right.

Over the next weeks, I and several others sat through much of the debate in both houses.  I recall hearing one pro-abortion MP admit that as a medical doctor she knew full well that abortion kills human infants in the womb, but in spite of that, she still supported legalising it.

I remember one pro-life MP after another putting forward the most pitiful arguments in an effort to prevent the inevitable. The Hon Muriel Patterson, MLC, who is now in her 80s, during the heat of the debate said this, “It is inconceivable to me that many people fight vehemently to save flowers, natural bush, insects, birds and animals, go into freezing cold water to try to push whales back into the sea to save them, because they say they are beautiful creatures … I cannot help but wonder that people feel like this and yet they believe in abortion on demand. Is it because the child is faceless, silent, and hidden from view?”

She continued, “The law as it now stands complies with the laws set down by our Creator and recognises the sanctity of life over all else. … Let us be mindful that Parliament is constituted to protect the wellbeing of every citizen. It has no legitimate power to exclude one person from lawful protection. … The unborn child does have rights.”

Many other pro-life MPs in both houses including the Hon Michelle Roberts, MLA, and the Hon Simon O’Brien, MLC, (who are both still serving in Parliament) spoke eloquently on behalf of the unborn. We are indebted to them.

In spite of their, and our efforts, the Acts Amendment (Abortion) Act 1998 became law on 26th May of that year. That law marked a deadly watershed in the history of this state. It reflected a morally bankrupt society which had lost its most basic sense of justice and entered a cold and heartless era.

At that time we made a solemn promise before God that we would never forget the children who would be deprived of the most precious of all rights, the right to life itself. And for the past 21 years we—I am speaking of all of you who are present this evening—we have kept that promise.

Tonight we renew our vow to remember them. We renew our vow to remind the Parliament of Western Australia about the darkest and most brutal decision it ever made. We renew our promise to continue to address this matter in larger and larger and larger numbers until our voice can no longer be ignored. We renew our promise to persevere until abortion becomes unthinkable.

Between January 1st 2018 and December 31st 2018 there were 7,793 induced abortions in Western Australia. It is difficult for us to fully comprehend the deaths of 7,793 unborn children over a period of just one year. Look around at all of the faces at this gathering tonight, and then multiply this group by four in order to get some idea of the terrible annual toll in this state in just one year.

Of those 7,793 abortions in 2018, 580 were performed on babies over 12 week’s gestation—fully formed second trimester babies with beating hearts. 83 were performed on babies at 20 weeks gestation or later with the approval of the Ministerial Panel. Some of these 83 babies were of viable age. The Hon Nick Goiran is continuing to pursue the matter of children born alive after abortion procedures but left to die.

We must not lose heart. Once again, in spite of population growth, the total number of abortions has dropped, this time by 34—34 precious infants less than one year ago!

We (and by “we” I mean pro-life Members of Parliament, Pregnancy Crisis Centres, priests, pastors, teachers and ordinary people like you and me, are having a positive impact. The abortion rate in Western Australia is steadily dropping. It is at 18 per cent of total births in WA, down from the high of 26 per cent in 2001! While we should never be satisfied, even if one abortion is taking place per year, this is an incremental shift in the right direction. Therefore, keep on keeping on! One day, with God’s help, we will prevail.

Maryka Groenewald, co-chair of the rally then led the gathering in a Minute of Silence. She said:

We are gathered here this evening to mourn the loss of 173,000 unborn babies who have been deprived of life under the heartless legislation that was passed by this parliament 21 years ago. As you have heard, this figure includes approximately 7,800 babies who have been killed since we last assembled one year ago. You may wish to bow your heads and to remember them. You may wish to pray for their mothers, and others, who have been harmed under this legislation. You may wish to pray for strength to continue this fight until unborn children are once again protected by law in the womb, and every child is valued, nurtured and loved. In silence, let us remember them.

After the Minute of Silence, Steve Klomp, the President of Right to Life Association of WA, and a Director of 40 Days for Life spoke to the gathering. He said:

I would like to talk to you a little today about the 40 Days for Life campaign and particularly about the Safe Access Zone law the WA Parliament is proposing to introduce this year. …

40 Days for Life is a world-wide movement! There are over one million members (and millions more what I call ‘casual’ prayers and vigil attendees) and at last count the campaign was being run in 377 cities across the globe. …

40 Days for Life is not a protest group. We are a group of people who hold a peaceful, prayerful vigil outside abortion clinics. Our efforts are concentrated in the forty days of Lent but we also hold smaller vigils at other times of the year.

Our people are loving, friendly and non-judgmental. We simply pray outside the clinics on public land. We have police permission to do our work. And we don’t approach people—apart per-
haps from a friendly hello or a wave—rather we wait until a person approaches us before we talk to them.

Yet despite this really low key approach we know we have saved many children over the years. In just this last campaign at Easter we know of five mothers who have spoken to us and then changed their minds and saved their babies. Thank the Lord for that!

We know our presence is the last line of defence for these mums and babies.

Despite what you may have heard, there are many mums arriving at the clinic who have not made up their minds. They are being pressured into the decision—it might be a family thing, money, a husband or boyfriend—or it may be that their child is sick.

Our presence is just the catalyst they need in order to save their child, which makes it all the more difficult to understand why the Western Australian Parliament now wants to legislate for “safe access zones” around abortion clinics.

They argue that women attending these clinics are somehow unsafe, and somehow humiliated by our presence. They want us to be 150 metres away from the entrance so that women can drive in without seeing us. In fact, the Police are already working to change our permits even before the law is changed.

To me this is very difficult to understand. I would have thought that it would be in the government’s interest to support measures to reduce the number of abortions in Western Australia. And quite clearly, our presence does reduce the number of abortions.

The Right to Life Association of Western Australia, and the 40 Days for Life campaign strongly oppose the Safe Access zone proposal.

We argue that firstly: Women are not, nor have they ever been, assaulted or humiliated by our presence. We are a peaceful, prayerful vigil and we only offer counselling to those who approach us first.

Secondly: If we are forced 150 metres away from the entrance to an abortion clinic then the opportunity to help women and families is lost. It would then be very difficult for us to offer counselling to anyone, and more children would die.

So I am asking two things of you: First, I would like you to consider joining the 40 Days for Life movement. Show your support for women, babies and families by joining us in our vigils. You can find us online.

Second, I would also like you to make a submission opposing “Safe Access” zones online to the Western Australian government. [Submissions have now closed, but hopefully many people attending the rally responded to Steve’s request.]

The Hon Nick Goiran, MLC, then addressed the gathering.  He stated that the people who attended the 2017 Rally for Life and signed the petition were instrumental in forcing a parliamentary committee to look into the inadequate system that has tragically allowed at least 26 babies to be left to die (after having survived an abortion procedure). This in turn has enabled Nick to report this matter to the Coroner who is presently inquiring into these unnatural deaths.

In light of this success, Nick urged those in attendance to sign the 2019 rally petition entitled, “Petition in relation to post 20 week abortions” and explained how improper it was that the current Health Minister had removed the one account-ability mechanism that had been created by the previous Health Minister around late term abortions. (This petition is included within this edition of Life News.)

Nick also underscored the importance of supporting the CDHL’s efforts for the September rally as his experience as the only member of Parliament who served on both the Joint Select Committee on End of Life Choices and the SCEA has confirmed that:

  1. Elder abuse is a significant problem in Western Australia;
  2. Suicide is at epidemic levels in WA;
  3. Access to quality palliative care is patchy in WA;
  4. Every jurisdiction that has legalised euthanasia has experienced wrongful deaths.

Rev Peter Abetz, State Director of the Australian Christian Lobby and a former Member of Parliament then addressed the gathering (Peter will chair the Coalition’s “Caring, Not Killing Rally” in September.). He said:

Plans are afoot to make what was once considered murder under the law to be recast as a “medical treatment”. The McGowan Government has committed to introducing legislation later this year to allow doctors to assist people to commit suicide.

The Joint Select Committee handed down its End of Life Choices Report in August last year. That report effectively recommended physician assisted suicide on demand. An expert committee is now working on the finer detail of what should be contained in the legislation. The government expects to have it ready to introduce into Parliament in September.

In light of this, the organisations that are part of the Coalition for the Defence of Human Life are working together to organise a [Caring, Not Killing] rally right here where we are gathered on Wednesday 4th September 2019 at 12 noon.  That will give you the opportunity to let our Members of Parliament know that we do not want doctors helping frail, elderly, chronically or terminally ill people to commit suicide.

Kevin Dunn from Canada, the producer of the film “Fatal Flaws” will be our keynote speaker. His film shows just how vulnerable people are under such legislation. It recounts personal stories of how physician assisted suicide and euthanasia has impacted families. Kevin tells us that in the Netherlands, in 2015, 431 patients were killed by medical staff without their permission. So much for safeguards!

We will make it clear at the rally that we want support for the frail, the elderly, the terminally and chronically ill. We will call for support, not suicide. No matter what stage of life a person is at, we should be providing the care and help they need, and not helping them opt for suicide. …

While many advocates of physician assisted suicide are genuinely motivated by a desire to reduce human suffering, they are very mistaken. I worked in palliative care in the 1980s, and I never once saw anyone dying in significant pain. Palliative care has progressed significantly since then. Quality palliative care can deal very well with physical pain, and also provide spiritual and emotional support.

The proponents of physician assisted suicide and euthanasia use all kinds of euphemisms to encourage the public and legislators to embrace this radical change. They give their groups names such as “Go Gently” and “Dying with Dignity”. … [And yet] a person who is dying, and losing control of bodily functions need not die without dignity. The ultimate expression of the dignity of life is to care for someone who is incapable of caring for themselves—that gives them dignity—that values their human life. …

The elderly, the chronically ill and the terminally ill often feel they are a financial or emotional burden on their loved ones. Making physician assisted suicide available puts a subtle pressure on such people to end their lives with the help of their doctor. It also sends a subtle message that some lives are not worth living, and that suicide is a valid option when a person finds life too difficult.

So I urge you to come along on Wednesday, 4th September at 12 noon and make this the biggest rally yet that this parliament has seen. The day before our rally, the Dying with Dignity people are holding a rally here. Let’s ensure that ours is the biggest yet. I look forward to seeing each of you plus at least two friends here on September 4th.

Margaret Quirk, MLA then addressed the gathering. She said:

Thank you Dwight for again organising this rally to clearly demonstrate the vast numbers of Western Australians who DEMAND that we respect life. We respect life from conception to grave. …

Tonight I want to talk about some laws which will be debated in Parliament later in the year.

We are holding a special [anti-physician assisted suicide and euthanasia] rally in September. Please continue your activism for life to ensure the defeat of the proposed euthanasia laws.

I refer to them as euthanasia laws because that is what they are. Sugar-coating laws by using euphemisms like “end of life choices” or “voluntary assisted dying” instead of suicide does not change what is being proposed.

The chair of the expert panel Hon Malcolm McCusker, a person whom I have the greatest respect for, let the cat out of the bag when he said they were not using the term euthanasia because it has negative connotations. Too right it does! …

Some of you will be aware that currently there are “consultation” forums taking place to discuss these laws. If you think “consultation” has its ordinary meaning of discussion, dialogue, debate or seeking advice, you are seriously mistaken. Anyone who attended those forums will know that comment was not invited or wanted from those opposed to the laws.

Rather, it was to seek feedback on how those laws should operate. The assumption has been made, I believe, incorrectly that presenting a Bill to Parliament and debating those laws is a mere formality. So, over the next few months I urge you to contact your local MP and seek an appointment to discuss in person those laws and your concerns. Don’t forget to contact those that represent you in the Legislative Council, where the vote will be tight. I urge you to take an interest by writing to your local paper or ringing talk back radio. It is essential that we get the message out that the so-called “overwhelming support” for euthanasia is a sham. …

The first question asked in polling consistently over the years has been, “For hopelessly ill people experiencing un-relievable suffering, if there is absolutely no chance of the patient recovering should the doctor let the patient die or should the doctor try to keep the patient alive as long as possible?” And the second question is, “If a hopelessly ill patient with no chance of recovering asks for a lethal dose, should a doctor be allowed to give it?”

These are highly qualified questions that should not be extrapolated to mean evidence of vast public support. As those who respect and choose life, we need to ensure that the legislators in this place [WA Parliament] appreciate that that figure is unreliable and does not reflect general community opinion.

The Select Committee on End of Life Choices received a huge number of submissions. 56% expressed opposition to the laws while only 35% were in favour. This is not reflected in the majority report which does not adequately address the arguments of those in opposition. The process was very much skewed towards a particular outcome irrespective of the thoughtful contributions of so many. …

There are two final observations that I want to make: The first is that last week we saw a large increase in monies allocated by the WA government for palliative care. That is to be applauded as palliative care is extremely under-resourced in WA. …

Secondly, do we want to live in a community where we contemplate bringing in laws that will make the elderly feel they are a burden? Or that they have no other option but to choose death? By introducing a culture of “choose death” over life won’t we expose those with depression and disabilities, those in care and those with early stage dementia to a lack of choice and autonomy—the very things the proponents of these laws say will be enhanced?

Dylan Twiss, a young man, then addressed the gathering. He said:

It is my privilege to very briefly address the young adults present here.

I myself was born in June, 1998, barely two months after abortion was legalised in WA. In that first year 8,820 babies were killed in the womb. In the 21 years since the number per year has remained roughly the same, such that by now 173,000 children have been aborted. For those my own age, I would like you to consider what this means for us.

From that first year alone, 8,000 siblings, friends, fellow students, or co-workers are not present with us and alive today. Imagine an entire graduating class of Curtin University simply not existing. This is what abortion means to us.

As we—the first cohort of those whose lives could be taken by state sanctioned abortion—are now at an age to bear our own children, we understand that the responsibility to fight for life is passing on to us.

The evil of abortion will not leave us alone, therefore we may not appease and leave it alone. And so, for the love of our parents, children, friends, society, and our God, we must be willing and equipped to face the challenge.

We must encourage our pro-life friends to be bold and to stand for all who are created in God’s image, from pre-birth to natural death.

We must compassionately confront those who have been misguided to their own hurt.

We must support those groups represented here who have faithfully stood up for the last 21 years. Time, youth, and freedom have been entrusted to us to steward for true justice. We will not all bear the same weight, yet we labour under the same burden. …

Now to those who have already been so faithful in the pro-life cause, I thank you for your example of courage, love, and wisdom. And I would ask that you encourage, mentor, and support us who follow after, so that the Pro Life movement would carry on until our state and nation truly cherishes the lives entrusted to our care.

Finally, we must all rest upon the strength of the God who gave His own Son to save unworthy and failing people such as us. He died for sins such as we face in our society and in ourselves, and rose again to give new and true life to all who call on him. We may confidently show love to our neighbours knowing that He has first loved us. His is the victory. To his name be the glory through our continuing effort.

Dwight Randall then made some concluding comments to the gathering. He said:

As you are all well aware, the federal election will take place this Saturday, 18th May. Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek, the leader and deputy leader of the opposition, have chosen to make abortion an issue in this election, and it is possible that they may pay the price for doing so. Shorten promised on 6th March 2019 that if Labor won the federal election to promote access to abortion across Australia. He committed Federal Labor to:

  1. require all public hospitals to provide abortions;
  2. pressure the governments of New South  Wales and South Australia to legalise abortion;
  3. fund abortions with taxpayer money so that women could obtain abortions free of charge; and
  4. set up a “reproductive health clinic” in a public hospital in Tasmania so that women can obtain abortions without travelling to the mainland.

If Labor is elected this Saturday, defenceless unborn babies will be at even greater risk, right up to the point of birth—at least 16 weeks beyond the point where a child can live outside of its mother’s womb. It is claimed that free, more accessible abortion will not lift the abortion rate, but this defies logic. The result will surely be that thousands more unborn children will die in order to implement Labor’s twisted view of “social and economic equality for women”.

For the sake of precious unborn children, may I please encourage you, prior to voting, to seriously ask yourself this vital question: “If they could speak, who would the 80,000 children who are aborted every year in Australia encourage me to vote for?” You can make a difference. Please, for the sake of unborn children, make your vote count. And encourage others to do so as well in the remaining days leading up to the election.

Maryka Groenewald then thanked the crowd for attending and encouraged every person to attend the “Caring, Not Killing Rally” on Wednesday, 4th September at 12:00 noon.

Rev Stephen t’Hart closed the rally in prayer. (Sadly, this heartfelt prayer was not recorded.)

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