Report of Family Action SA trip to Rhodes University, Grahamstown, to protest International Pro-Abortion Conference.
The proposed Abortion Conference in Grahamstown was already attracting attention toward the end of 2017. At the time we sent out some feelers regarding possible protest action, but with the pace of life as it is and so many other issues, it slipped off the radar screen. It was also clearly not being aggressively promoted by the organisers which would have certainly kept it in the public eye! It was then with much concern and misgiving that we suddenly became aware that this abomination was upon us…
What to do? There are so many Christian organisations in South Africa, but our voices are just not being raised, or perhaps not heard. At moments like this that profound maxim rises up before one – “we were not born to fit in, but to stand out!”
It was with this in mind and the conviction that we could not be idle in the face of the “culture of death” being so brazenly and boldly professed, that on 9 July, a five-man team from Family Action South Africa took the road from Ladismith to Grahamstown. Their mission: a public Rosary Rally and peaceful protest against the international “Abortion & Reproductive Justice: The Unfinished Revolution III” Conference being held at Rhodes University from 8 to 12 July 2018.
The goal was threefold: to make a public act of reparation to Almighty God for this stain on our land, to pray for the frustration of the Conference’s goals and for increased resistance from the various sectors where the abortion lobby is meeting opposition/inertia/rejection. In addition, we sought to pray for the mercy of God upon our country, make the public aware of the seriousness of the Conference and give some fraternal support to others in the trenches – in this case notably, Peter Throp of Value Life who himself had courageously taken the long road to Grahamstown.
Armed with an assortment of classic “sidewalk placards,” we sought an ideal spot to be seen and heard! “Hoot for the Unborn,” “Women Need Love, Not Abortion” “Real Doctors don’t kill Babies,” “Abortion stops a Beating Heart,” and “Abortion offends God,” were some of our attention-getters… We finally established ourselves at a crossroads close to the venue, strategically positioning ourselves with the various placards. We simultaneously unfurled our three-metre wide Rosary Rally banner inviting the public to join our prayer effort. We were also joined by Peter for this action. The weather was perfect and the response was very encouraging to say the least. The Rally lasted for an hour and a half during which time there were over 200 hoots! It is not often that one appreciates and enjoys the discordant sound of hooters! But this was music to the ears!
In fact, I was encouraged and pleasantly surprised by this manifestation of support for the plight of the unborn. And this was in a time of relatively mild traffic flow… This type of manifestation is common in America but here in South Africa we do not have a culture of such protest action, so it was interesting to gauge the level of support for Life – which the media narrative would have us believe to be irrelevant.
There were enthusiastic and vibrant reactions of support from passers-by and motorists alike. One lady walked past making a hoot motion with her hand and said, “I’m hooting! I agree with you.” Towards the end of the Rally, a Zimbabwean lady came by and asked if she could take a picture with us. She mentioned that she and her husband were attending the Conference, but that she personally was against abortion and her husband (a gynaecologist) was not actually in the business of abortion! It was a good lesson to us not to write off participants per se as sometimes there are circumstances which would place such people actually on our side! It was evident to us that we were also seen and heard by other Conference participants.
There was some opposition of course, but very little in comparison to the support we received. Several people drove past and made rude finger signs, which have become such knee jerk responses from certain quarters. One woman walked by and having read our “Abortion offends God” sign, said “You offend me.” A little while later, two young Malawian women engaged one of our party for a good while on the merits of being “pro-choice”, after which the respective parties parted ways agreeing to disagree. While he was talking with them, a man walked up and swore in his face and asked the two women if they agreed that we should be thrown off the campus. It was pointed out that we were on a public intersection, after which the man swore again before walking away. The SABC was covering the Conference and honed in on our banner and posters. They also conducted an interview with us, which was aired the following morning on SABC Morning Live.
It must be abundantly clear that a lack of respect for the rights and life of the smallest, vulnerable and most defenceless inevitably seeps into the bigger culture and can only cheapen notions of the sanctity of life.
The joy of publicly manifesting one’s rejection of the “culture of death” and putting action to words was great! We were not many but we were there – standing up for the unborn and making a public act of reparation to Almighty God against a Conference promoting those sins which cry out to Him for vengeance…
One of the stated aims of the Conference was to “destigmatize”, on the social, political and religious planes, easy and unfettered access to abortion, – in other words to change mind sets, cultures, sensibilities… to numb consciences as to the awful reality constituting the “termination” of life in the womb!
The one encouraging reality is that seemingly, within our own country, our neighbours and indeed our Continent (where the family institution is so strongly entrenched in the culture), there exist considerable and profound obstacles to “easy access” – be these from governments, institutions, communities, nurses or doctors…
Prior to the trip we had sent out an email to thousands of our friends and supporters and we felt palpably the presence of these who joined us in prayer and spirit.
May this Conference which was very far-reaching in its goals, discussion and scope, goad us into a more spirited and energetic defence of the plight of the unborn. For this we need much courage, determination and prayer! May Almighty God have mercy on us for the violation of His precepts and may He give us the grace to grasp that life – all life, from conception to natural death – is sacred. Without adherence to this basic premise, society will only unravel, leading to total moral collapse and increasing disregard for life – already so clearly evident all around us!
Report by Bernard Tuffin