Introduction to the William Wilberforce Awards
In a few minutes we will be presenting the William Wilberforce Awards to certain members of parliament “For consistent service in the defence of human life and the protection of unborn children in the Parliament of Western Australia”.
The Coalition for the Defence of Human Life has named the awards after William Wilberforce because of the parallels between his fight to end slavery and our fight to end abortion. Slavery and abortion both depend upon the dehumanising of certain classes of human beings. Both devalue human life and subordinate it to the personal whims and economic interests of the powerful. And like abortion today, slavery in its day was so widely supported in the community that opposition to it seemed futile.
William Wilberforce dedicated himself to the abolition of slavery in 1787, seven years after entering the British parliament and two years after becoming a Christian.
Year after year Wilberforce put up a bill to abolish the slave trade, and year after year his bill was defeated and he himself was mocked and vilified. Twenty years passed before his bill passed through the parliament in 1807. Wilberforce then laboured for another 26 years to abolish slavery itself. Think of it: 20 years to abolish the trade of slavery and a further 26 years to abolish the practice of slavery; 46 years in all. That’s dedication! That’s perseverance!
The film Amazing Grace was released a decade ago to mark the 200th anniversary of the enactment of William Wilberforce’s bill to abolish the slave trade. One scene in the film is particularly poignant. The secretary of Wilberforce’s anti-slavery society had returned from the West Indies, where he had witnessed the brutality of slavery firsthand. He reported that the slaves knew about, and took hope from, Wilberforce’s struggle on their behalf. Then he said, “I saw a woman and her child being beaten in a coffee field. And afterwards I heard the woman tell her daughter that someone was coming across the sea to save them. She said it was King Wilberforce.”
My dear life-loving members of parliament, can you hear them, the little children in the waiting rooms of the abortion clinics in Perth? One is saying, “I’ve heard that someone is coming across the city to save us.” And another is replying, “Yes, I’ve heard it too. I’ve heard that King O’Brien is coming, and Queen Roberts, too.”
Of course, this is a fantasy. Unborn children snuggled in their mothers’ wombs in the abortion clinic waiting-rooms cannot speak, nor do they know of attempts to save them. But I know and I can speak. And I want to say this to you regal parliamentarians who are about to receive the William Wilber-force Awards:
I saw you, Michelle Roberts and Simon O’Brien, in action during the abortion debates in parliament over those terrible weeks in 1998. I saw your dedication, your sacrifice, your integrity, your valour. And since then I have seen other noble parliamentarians take up the fight for life. Well done, your Majesties!
Oh, may you continue to be to the unborn children of Western Australia what William Wilberforce was to the enslaved peoples of the British territories! Regardless of the waves and the currents and the winds, keep crossing the seas of cruelty until you reach the children and save them. Be their Wilberforce. Be their liberating kings and queens. May the High King of Heaven help you in this great endeavour!