A New Self-Awareness: Dutch March for Life on the Rise
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Pro-lifers abroad often view The Netherlands as the worst of the worst when it comes to euthanasia and abortion. Not without reason. However there are hopeful signs. One of them is the booming March for Life, which was held on December 9. For our foreign pro-life friends we have written an account in the English language.
The pro-life movement is growing, also in the Netherlands. This became clearly visible in the new record turnout of 14.000 participants for The March for Life in The Hague. Organized at Saturday December 9 by the Protestant foundation Schreeuw om Leven ('Scream for Life'), the manifestation was visited by many Catholics as well. A leading liberal newspaper, De Volkskrant, wrote the March demonstrated “a new self-awareness” of the Christian part of the Dutch population.
No Christian Democrats
Leading politicians of the two small Christian political parties, SGP and ChristenUnie, showed in speeches their commitment to the protection of human life from cradle to grave. There were no speakers of CDA, the influential Dutch Christian Democrats. Like their counterparts in other European countries, CDA refuses to make a principled stand against abortion. The party has a painful history of collaboration in making abortion a legal procedure.
Father Knudsen FSSP preaching during Holy Mass, before the March for Life
Catholics participated in the March via pro-life organization Stirezo, founded by Jan Koopman (1919-1997), a priest of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, who already started to campaign against abortion in Holland in the early Seventies. The Catholics started the day of the March with Holy Mass. During the sermon of the Tridentine Mass, Father Martin Kromman Knudsen FSSP contrasted the voluntary sacrifice of Our Lord's blood on the altar of the Church, with the involuntary 'sacrifice' of the unborn child's blood on the altar of the abortion clinic.
The Catholics then went praying the rosary in procession through the center of The Hague to Malieveld, the place of the March. After the March there was a Catholic program. Speaker was Mrs. Van der Wende, coordinator of ‘Silent No More’ in The Netherlands. She told the audience about her own heartwrenching experiences of abortion after rape. These changed her into a very principled pro-lifer. Hugo Bos, member of the Stirezo board, stressed in his talk the growing awareness of the right to life in the Netherland and the quickly rising numbers of people walking the March for Life.
'Abortion is no real help'
Before the March thousands of people had gathered at the Malieveld, where the program started at noon with community singing and prayer. Party leader of the SGP, Kees van der Staaij, said in his speech that he had never seen so many people together during the March for Life. “More and more people, and especially more and more young people, have the courage to say: Abortion is no real help.” Van der Staaij found it hopeful to see that the seemingly 'untouchable' abortion centers in the Netherland have turned out to be not that untouchable after all. Recently a political scandal rocked The Netherlands when investigative journalists discovered that abortion centers had committed fraud with taxpayer’s money on a massive scale. Many had to close down.
"Unfortunately”, said Van der Staaij, “this has not happened because of a fall in demand for abortion, neither because of a change in public opinion. It is something completely different: these centers went bankrupt after fraud. Of course, I know very well: they will try everything to make a new start. People can now just go to another clinic, and no doubt new clinics will come up. Yet, who would have thought that these untouchable abortion centers are actually closing their doors at this moment? I call that remarkable. Reality is often so different from what we think."
The same thing was stressed by Peter Smith, who is UN Representative for the United Kingdom’s (UK) Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) and International Right to Life Federation. He explained how the United Nations has included abortion as one of the human rights, although this is completely incompatible with the main human right: the right to life. "Article six states that every human being has the right to life. In addition, it also states that the death penalty should never be performed on a pregnant woman. Now the Genocide Human Rights Committee has added a draft right, stating that affiliated states and countries are obliged to guarantee safe access to abortion to ensure the life and health of pregnant women." According to Smith, they are not the only party that continuously wants to push through the 'right' to abortion. Also CEDAW (Convention of Elimination or Discrimination against Women) has been lobbying for years. Smith: "But it is a fake right. In other words: You cannot possibly turn a wrong, which is abortion, into a right'.
During the March, blue and blue flags visualized on the Malieveld that 31,000 unborn children were not allowed to be born in the Netherlands this year. There was also some criticism from participants about the route of the March. Unlike previous years, the local government had not given permission to walk through the city itself. As The Hague is the seat of the Dutch government, controversial political demonstrations there are quite common. That the March was suddenly not allowed in the city is considered as a deliberate move to keep the demonstration apart. Nonetheless, for national television the success of the March was the opening item of the news that night.
Catholic procession towards the March. The banner reads: "Stand up for children with Down's! No to prenatal discrimination!"