by JEFF DILLON
About 60 people gathered at 1pm on June 20, near the entrance to Dunedin Hospital, on Unborn Remembrance Day, organised throughout New Zealand by Voice for Life.
The hour-long ceremony drew attention to the 581 lives aborted at the hospital during 2019, which contributed to the New Zealand total of 12,857 abortions during last year.
For the Catholic members of the Dunedin branch of VFL, the day held a special significance since it was the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. A number of them had arranged and attended a special 11 am Mass in the Moran Chapel, celebrated by Bishop Colin Campbell, Bishop Emeritus of Dunedin.
In his homily, Bishop Campbell noted that the feast day had been instituted during WWII, and today people are engaged in a war that has been going on for years over the status of the unborn child. He mentioned how he had once read an Austrian philosopher who claimed the worst sin was “inattention”. If a person does not pay attention to what another is saying then it is tantamount to indicating that they don’t really matter and that they might as well not exist. Bishop Campbell suggested that that was what has happened with abortion. He said, “if a baby is born then it is welcomed by its parents, but if it is aborted then it is treated as though it never existed”. That is the kind of philosophy behind abortion legislation in New Zealand today.
The gathering outside the hospital focused on a display of 581 small crosses. A notice on a wall proclaimed: “Remembering 581 unborn babies lives ended by abortion in Dunedin Hospital 2019.”
The crosses were formed from jumbo popsicle sticks, with a symbolic plastic photocopy of a bittern (matuku) feather attached, with a light thread so that it fluttered in the breeze. The matuku feather represents the mourning or grieving for that death.
The significance of the symbolism was explained by the first main speaker, Jacqui de Ruiter (National President of VFL), as she reflected on the reason for the gathering as a time of remembrance.
A Maori perspective on abortion was given by the second speaker, Tanya Gilbert-Kennedy, who said that both lives mattered, “both mother and the child deserve better than abortion”.
An example of the value of adoption was provided by the third speaker, Rebecca O’Neill, since both she and her brother were adopted.
The fourth speaker, Pastor Kristopher Bate, gave a powerful speech on hope and forgiveness. He concluded with a prayer for the Government.
That was followed by the assembled group singing “Amazing Grace” and a prayer by Colleen Howard for the nation.
The Dunedin VFL president, Janice Littlejohn, then spoke frankly about her own life experience, and her involvement with abortion in her earlier life and the emotions she endured.
A special time was set aside during the gathering to observe a minute of silence at precisely 1:28:57pm, representing the national abortion total. This was followed by the playing of a recorded heartbeat of a 12-week-old foetus and also the slower heartbeat of its mother.
The gathering closed with the national anthem and a concluding prayer from Bishop Campbell.