While the New South Wales Legislative Council was in session at 6pm on Tuesday, across the street a crowd of thousands overflowed Sydney's Martin Place from Castlereagh Street beyond Phillip Street to express their anger with the abortion bill the legislators were debating.  

As the crowd waved their banners and chanted “Stand for Life” and other refrains of “Pro Life, Pro Woman, Pro Child” between addresses from a large cast of speakers, their voices, and the speaker’s were clearly heard in the parliament according to MP Rev Fred Nile. He addressed the crowd a few minutes after speaking against the bill in the chamber. He was joined in addressing the crowd by six other MP’s from Liberal, National and Labor parties who also oppose the legislation.

 Anti abortion rally1

 

Anti abortion rally2

 

Anti abortion rally3

Top - Bishop Robert Rabbat, of the Melkite Catholic Eparchy of Australia and New Zealand, opening the rally in prayer; Middle and below - Protestors among the thousands at the rally. PICTURES: Christopher Gilbert.

The Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 - which would decriminalise abortion in the state - passed through the NSW Legislative Assembly on 9th August then underwent two weeks of a Legislative Council committee review before being debated for the first time in the council on Tuesday evening.

Earlier in the day NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian delayed the bill's presentation for passage in the upper house until after a three week September recess, giving her time to deal with disaffection within her own party as well as the public outcry over what has been described as the secretive way the bill has been handled. In the words of most of the rally speakers, the bill was “rammed through", without being signalled publicly, and without seeking public input. 

“By people power and God power the bill has been delayed and we can convince our politicians to be about life and love,” Sydney's Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher told the rally. Along with Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies, he added,  “We must kill this shameful bill.”  

Liberal MP Tanya Davies said the decision to delay the bill meant there was now three weeks "to mount a tsunami of opposition to this bill, but do it with dignity and respect". She suggested using social media, texting and emailing concerns to MPs. “We want six million voices to be heard by this parliament.”

Chief concerns about the bill highlighted at the rally included that it allows termination of a child right up to the moment of birth as well as allowing the taking of the unborn child's life up to 22 weeks including for gender selection or the likelihood of Down syndrome, the latter leading Liberal MP Kevin Conolly to claim the bill meant eugenics was coming to NSW.

“What unites us is the concern that women should receive proper health care options, not the singular option of the death of the child,” said Martyn Iles, managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby and the coordinator of the event. “We want our voices to be heard in parliament and legislation to protect life, not destroy it."

Rachel Wong, managing director of Women's Forum Australia and adjunct lecturer in the School of Law at the University of Notre Dame Australia, told the crowd her "heart is broken by the process of this bill how they ignored the voice of the people of New South Wales."

“I’m angry about the callousness of the law. It makes girls most vulnerable and it pits the woman against the child. We should be protecting women from coercion to abort the child, especially in cases of domestic violence. It’s time to stop telling women that abortion is their only solution to unwanted pregnancy."

Quoting Psalm 139, Greek Orthodox Archbishop Makarios asked the assembled people to become the voice for the voiceless and demonstrate God’s love for the unborn.  

“To witness to God’s love we must stand before this parliament,” he said. "Surely our community can be counted on to support women and protect them from violence in an often lonely time for them."

Correction: The top image has been corrected as Bishop Robert Rabbat Melkite, of the Catholic Eparchy of Australia and New Zealand, not Greek Orthodox Archbishop Makarios. The error was made in editing.