Thousands gather in Sydney in last ditch effort to stop abortion bill

There was almost a celebratory tone at tonight’s ‘Stand for life’ protest in Sydney’s Martin Place, with protesters buoyed by what they called a show of unity amongst Christians against abortion.

Protesters were standing against legislation to decriminalise abortion currently under debate in NSW Parliament. The bill passed the NSW lower house earlier this month. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian decided this afternoon to delay the vote in the upper house until after parliament resumed sitting (mid-September at the earliest).

Armed with protest signs declaring “Love Mum, Love Bub” and “everyone deserves a birthday”, the 2500 to 3000-strong, markedly young crowd chanted “stand for life”, “no to abortion, yes to life”, “love them both” and “We are the pro-life generation”.

Before the long list of speakers began, a young MC pumped up the crowd.

“Ditch the bill! Ditch the bill!” chanted the crowd.

“Are there any pro-lifers in the crowd?!” he asked loudly, and then “Are there any Maronites? Coptic orthodox? Greek Orthodox Chaldeans? Antiochians? So I ask you again, are there any pro-lifers in the crowd?”

A range of speakers addressed those in the crowd, including politicians, religious leaders and the Australian Christian Lobby’s Martyn Iles.

Liberal backbencher and former Minister for Women Tanya Davies, who has been a vocal opponent of the bill, received a huge cheer.

Davies told protesters that they had been given “a stay of execution” by Berejiklian announcing the vote delay today. Every single person in attendance would be needed, she said – as representatives of families, workplaces, churches, mosques and synagogues – “to garner and galvanise all our voices in unison, calling for the bill to be ditched”.

“Ditch the bill! Ditch the bill!” chanted the crowd.

When any speaker mentioned that the legislation had been rushed through, the crowd booed loudly and shouted “Shame!”.

A middle-aged woman speaking in the crowd to a young man volunteering in a high-vis vest that she’d been protesting outside State Parliament all week after politicians had tried to “push through changes in three days without giving us the chance to have a say!”

“Well we’ve got a chance now!” he replied “And you know what the best thing is? The Lord is on our side.”

“And the best thing is that it’s bringing all the churches together!” she agreed.

Her delight was echoed by Sydney Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies who told the crowd “I’m here with my fellow archbishops! The Catholics and Anglicans are one on this! And the Greek Orthodox!”

“We are one! We are one!” the crowd chanted. Archbishop Davies then led the crowd in a chant: “Kill this bill! Kill this bill!”.

The medical and legal specifics of the bill that have dominated online discussions about the bill were absent from the evening’s speeches. For protesters, the specifics had been settled and the opportunity to stop abortions was before them, if only they could rally themselves to convince others.

The Armenian Orthodox Archbishop told the crowd “NSW abolished the death penalty in 1955 and now it’s being re-introduced.” The crowd booed.

“Raise your voice for the voiceless,” he implored them, “I can’t hear you!”

ACL national director Martyn Iles thanked the crowd for being there, telling them, “I have to say, there’s something exhilarating about reading the Bible in Martin Place to applause so I am going to do it tonight,” before reading the creation story aloud.

“Life in God’s image begins in the womb” he said, lamenting that humans have “embraced darkness instead of light” by failing to protect unborn lives.