On Bank Holiday Monday, 6 May, Right To Life held its 20th annual sponsored Walk of Witness and people came from near and far to take part.
Before setting off, the walkers received copies of a letter of encouragement sent by Archbishop Emeritus Patrick Kelly, a regular at this event across the years, both when Morecambe Bay provided the setting and, since 2008, Clitheroe. Moreover, they heard a thought-provoking speech from Lord David Alton of Liverpool, who underlined the significance of the occasion.
Lord Alton, who recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of his election to Parliament, said: ‘Why does this matter? Why do we keep on coming, year after year? We do so because of what Right To Life represents as a charity, and we do it because in this country every three minutes an unborn baby loses its life in an abortion, and there have been nine million abortions since the laws were changed, just over 50 years ago.’
He continued: ‘When we think of the huge numbers, we can hardly make sense of them. Reducing that figure down to the numbers that take place every day, every three minutes, gives us some idea of the scale of loss.’
There were more numbers: one baby every three minutes, twenty in the course of an hour. Or, in the time taken to complete our walk, 40 babies aborted, right up to and including birth in cases of disability – for reasons such as hair lip, cleft pallet and club foot. Indeed 90% of babies with Down’s syndrome are now routinely aborted in this country. The 98% of cases which don’t involve disability (the so-called ‘hard cases’) are done under social clauses, with some women having up to eight legal abortions.
Lord Alton added that babies were aborted up to 24 weeks’ gestation, yet babies have lived and survived below that time limit with good paediatric care. ‘The reality of what we do to a child at that time is violent, barbaric and wholly uncivilised,’ he said. ‘It’s cruel and the baby can be in considerable pain when it is being aborted.’
Lord Alton commented that every other species in this country enjoys greater protection than an unborn child, and he went on to highlight the fact that since the 1967 Abortion Act, we have seen experiments on human embryos, the creation of animal/human hybrids, and regular attempts at Westminster to legalise euthanasia.
And now, on the legislative horizon, we see so-called assisted dying and assisted suicide. Lord Alton spoke of a man who had been in a coma for decades before he finally regained consciousness, and added: ‘Who are we to say when someone will live, and someone will die? At the end of life, in countries like Holland, thousands of people are euthanised as a result of the law being changed, without the consent of the patient, and what started off as so called “mercy killing”, ends up as a “duty” to die.’
He reflected on a conversation he had when he met Mother Theresa of Calcutta. ‘Are we going to win?’ he asked. She replied, ‘David, you are not called upon to be successful, you are called upon to be faithful.’
Lord Alton concluded: ‘It is not for us to worry about if or when we are going to win this or that fight, but we simply have to witness and go on challenging people to change this culture of death which has led to so much brutality and so much ending of life.’