LONDON (OSV News) — More than 7,000 people took to the streets of London for the annual March for Life, which had as its theme “Freedom to Live.”
March participants were seen holding signs with messages such as “Abortion destroys the freedom to live” and “Life from conception, no exception.”
Organizers said later that more than 10,000 might have attended the rally, which went from the Emmanuel Center in Westminster to Trafalgar Square and ended in Parliament Square, but a rail strike stopped people traveling into the capital from outside the city.
The ninth annual march was nevertheless attended by Auxiliary Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster, the lead bishop for life issues of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, as well as Bishop Richard Moth of Arunden and Brighton, Bishop John Keenan of Paisley, Scotland, and Msgr. Keith Newton, who heads the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.
In a homily in Westminster Cathedral ahead of the Sept. 2 march, Bishop Sherrington said he prayed the witness of the demonstrators “will help to change hearts and minds and make women and men think again about the goodness of the dignity of unborn life in the womb.”
“We pray that this witness will lead fewer women to choose abortion, fewer men to urge or support this choice, and more women and men to choose to respect and protect the lives of mothers and their unborn children,” he said. “We want to witness to respect for the preciousness of life and give the freedom to live to the unborn child.”
The bishop added: “While the focus of this March for Life is about abortion, our prayers are also needed as the debate to provide legislation and permit ‘assisted suicide,’ or assisted dying as it is euphemistically called, continues with great pace and public support.’
“On an almost daily basis, there is one or another newspaper article supporting such a choice. Such choice is based on a freedom to choose which separates itself from the truth about the gift of human life,” the bishop said.
Bishop Sherrington said that the “coherence of Catholic teaching is that human life, from conception to natural death, is like a seamless garment to be protected, cared for, and when at its weakest and most vulnerable, valued and treated in a way that respects its inestimable worth.”
The 1967 Abortion Act permits abortions within 24 weeks of gestation and when authorized by two doctors. Abortions of babies with disabilities are allowed up to birth.
Since the passage of the act, more than 10 million abortions have been performed on women in Britain.
Addressing the rally at the end of the march was Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, a co-director of the event, who was arrested for a second time earlier this year for silently praying near an abortion clinic in Birmingham, England.
She said: “On the second time I was arrested, I was told my prayers were an offense.”
“I’ll tell you what is offensive, that our country has the highest ever abortion figures, 100,000 of them annually being repeat abortions and the only response we see happening in our government is a clamp down on those who peacefully offer alternatives to pregnant women,” she emphasized.
The rally also was addressed by a young woman introduced only as Ellie who expressed regret for having three abortions.
“I think I can speak for every post-abortive woman here today that abortion didn’t grant us freedom, but made us captives in one way or another,” she said.
The rally also was attended by Father Sean Gough, a priest from Wolverhampton, who tweeted that he was proud to be at the march with his mother because his life could have ended in abortion if she had not been so courageous when she was pregnant.
He said: “My mom chose life for me despite the very difficult circumstances I was conceived into, which is why I’m proud to march for life with her.”
The march took place about two months after U.K. government figures indicated that a record numbers of abortions took place in England and Wales last year.
Statistics released in June by the Department of Health and Social Care show that 123,219 abortions for residents of England and Wales took place in the six months between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2022.
The figure is 17,731 higher than the total recorded for the first six months of 2021, which was 105,488 for residents of England and Wales.
That year saw the highest number of abortions ever recorded in England and Wales over a full year, at 214,256 for residents of England and Wales.
Catherine Robinson of Right To Life UK, a pro-life lobby group, said afterward in a press statement that the numbers who attended the march were “encouraging.”
She said: “It was fantastic to see thousands of passionate pro-lifers, a large number of whom are young people, marching through the streets of London today.”
She said, “This is a crucial moment for the U.K., when abortion advocates are intensifying their efforts to introduce abortion up to birth for any reason.”