40,000 join March for Life in Paris (PHOTOS)
PARIS, January 21, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Thousands of pro-life citizens marched through the streets of Paris on Sunday for the nation’s 9th annual March for Life. While police estimated the turn out at 16,000, organizers put it at 40,000.
After nearly two years of socialist government under President François Hollande, France appears to have woken up more fully to the deepening reality of the culture of death – but also to hope-giving changes that are taking place in Europe and in the United States.
The spirit of the event had evidently changed this year. In previous years participants were required to avoid certain “hard” or “negative” slogans such as “abortion kills,” and to put the accent on a positive message such as “laws for life” or “protect life.” Balloons, music and dancing would give a festive air to the event.
This year, the march took place a day before the French National Assembly began debate on a bill seeking to loosen the abortion law and clamp down on pro-life activities.
For the first time, the Fondation Jérôme-Lejeune, which funds research and organizes consultations for children with Down’s syndrome, officially called on its members and well-doers to march in Paris. Its president, Jean-Marie Le Méné, was the first to warn pro-lifers of the amendments to the new French “Equality between women and men” act.
These amendments are seeking to remove the legal obligation under which women seeking an abortion in France need to prove they are in “distress,” thus making termination of pregnancy a “right” during the first trimester.
While in practical terms this obligation is no longer implemented, and has not been for a long time since abortion was first made legal in France in 1975, such a rewording of the law would have deep symbolical implications as abortion would no longer be considered as an exception but as a positive good women can demand.
Also, under the law “hindering” abortion would be more widely and heavily punished. Psychological and moral pressure not to abort on a personal basis are already subject to heavy fines and imprisonment. Under the new law, however all information showing the evil, dangers and negative aftermath of abortion would be prohibited, including informative websites that help women find ways to keep their child without indicating where and how they can abort.
Undoubtedly many demonstrators came to the March for Life on Sunday from all of France’s regions in order to manifest their opposition against the new socialist project – knowing that Hollande’s government, shortly after coming in to office, had already decided in 2012 to fully refund all legal abortions through the state budget.
Sunday’s major turn-out is also linked to nearby Spain’s recent decision to toughen abortion laws. A draft act has been adopted by the government that will once more consider abortion as an exception, obliging women to obtain a certificate from two independent doctors that their physical or mental health is at risk. Abortion would no longer be a “right” as it has been since 2010, and the unborn’s right to life would be solemnly affirmed; eugenic abortions would be prohibited.
The mainstream French press has been calling the Spanish bill “reactionary” and “regressive”.
The organizers of the March for Life decided to give this edition Spanish colors, with gold and red banners, flags and signs: “Do you want to keep it? Go to Spain!” They invited several major Spanish pro-life leaders and politicians from the Partido Popular party which has at last introduced the new draft legislation under heavy pressure demanding “zero abortion” in Spain.
Unlike previous years, many journalists from the mainstream media attended the press conference just before the March to meet with the Spanish delegation, and several news sources carried headlines about the event.
Ignacio Arzuaga, from HazteOir, a citizen’s pro-life Internet platform, told LifeSiteNews he was “happy” that a tougher law is under way in Spain, but not “satisfied” because abortion would still be legal. Spanish pro-life groups intend to remain active until no exceptions are allowed, and they are also fighting for genuine help for pregnant mothers in distress.
The success of Spanish pro-lifers is certainly acting as an incentive on their French counterparts to boost their campaigns and to speak out more clearly against abortion.
Also, thousands of ordinary French people have realized, thanks to last year’s mobilization against gay “marriage”, that they are not alone and that they have a right to speak out.
At the end of the four-hour March, which slowly moved from the place Denfert-Rochereau to the Invalides monument, dozens of “Hommens” tore off their jackets and shirts and erupted into the crowds with pro-life slogans painted on their torsos. For months now, they have been organizing anti-gay “marriage” events all over France in reaction to the revolutionary “Femen” movement that has invaded churches and public places claiming the “right to abortion” with blasphemous slogans.
The young men were violently apprehended by riot police but the pro-life crowds reacted strongly, crying shame on the police force. Organizers of the March used their public address system to call on the police to let the young men go as they were not disrupting the public order in any way.
The “Hommens” then went on to unfurl a giant banner from a nearby roof terrace: “Hollande, degage!” (“Hollande, clear out!”)
Next Sunday, another major demonstration, called the “Day of Wrath”, is to take place in Paris. Many pro-life organizations and defenders of true marriage will join to protest against socialist attacks on life, family, free enterprise, personal property, French sovereignty and identity. The “March for Life” organization ended last Sunday’s event with a call to keep up the pressure on Hollande and his government by joining “Day of Wrath”. A specific national demonstration against gay “marriage” will take place in Paris a week later, on February 2nd.
Numerous Catholic bishops took part in the march, including, for the first time in Paris, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyons.