OPINION: During the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, African-American demonstrators would often sing adapted spirituals or folk songs. They sang these songs to bolster their spirits and show those who reacted to their peaceful demonstrations with violence that they were not afraid and that they were not going away. In the words of one popular song, "We shall not be moved."
13,285 baby booties, each one representing an unborn life lost to abortion in 2017. That's what we laid on the lawn outside of Parliament on Wednesday. A visual, tangible representation of the reality of abortion.
Over the next year, we're likely to have a lot of debate about what the abortion law should be in New Zealand. We'll hear a lot about access and reproductive rights. I hope we'll also hear a lot about the ways abortion harms many women, the women being coerced into having abortions, and teenage girls having abortions without proper support systems around them.
But that's not what Wednesday's Booties Project was about. The booties were about the babies.
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Because no matter the reason for a woman seeking out an abortion, no matter what anyone else things about her (or her boyfriends', or her partners', or her parents', or her pimps') choice, a life was lost.
Abortion always entails the destruction of a life. It's its very nature its very purpose. There is no escaping the reality that a unique human life is lost in an abortion. No matter our politics, no matter our morals, no matter our opinions. It just is.
And that's why we and the 13,285 booties knit by thousands of New Zealanders were out on Parliament's lawn on Wednesday. To manifest that reality.
Those 13,285 babies can't speak for themselves. They can't ask for respect for their unique human life. They can't protest against their own destruction. They can't demand to not be forgotten in our upcoming conversations about abortion law reform.
They can't, but we can. And we shall not be moved.
Our demonstration was peaceful. We laid out our booties, and we chatted quietly together, occasionally walking among the rows of booties and remembering the lives lost.
When pro-abortion counter protesters left their designated protest space and invaded ours for a grotesque and disrespectful photo-op, we sang the national anthem, and asked security to maintain the order Parliament set out for the day.
When we began our speeches, and the counter-protestors blared their music louder and louder and shouted at us, we carried on. We spoke of the lives lost, and of the hope we have for a better tomorrow, in which women are supported and given hope and unborn babies don't have to lose their lives. We spoke of our love and compassion for the human family and all its members, no matter their stage of development, their ability, or their vulnerability. And we spoke of our dedication to remaining a voice for the voiceless.
We demonstrated. We took a peaceful stand, and made visible the realities of abortion - the unborn lives lost. We make no apology for acknowledging the darkest side of abortion. The side beyond the rhetoric, beyond the choices, beyond what the law says and doesn't say. 13,285 lives were lost last year to abortion, and we must never forget that.
Disagree with us, react to our peaceful display with aggression or willful misunderstanding. But know that we will not be moved.
Jacqui deRuiter, a former senior registered nurse, is the national president of Voice for Life.