They came in baby carriages, strollers, and wheel chairs, but mostly they came on foot to the rallying point at Piazza della Repubblica, one of Rome’s largest squares. Despite an overcast sky and unseasonably chilly weather, thousands—more than in prior years—gathered in the late afternoon on Saturday, May 18, for Italy’s ninth annual National March for Life. Balloons of all colors and white flags with the March’s pro-life logo were handed out to marchers and fluttered in the breeze. A loudspeaker blared Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, energizing the throng.
From midafternoon to early evening the crowds of marchers wended their way along some of Rome’s most glorious and historical streets as numerous pro-life and pro-family Italian organizations were joined by counterpart groups and people from other European countries as well as from Canada and the United States (including this author).
This year, for the first time, a group of Italian University Students for Life formed a line in the March. Taking a cue from the U.S. experience, they hoisted a large banner which proclaimed in English: “I am the prolife generation.” They marched along with a number of pro-life doctors, pharmacists, and other medical personnel who are conscientious objectors to abortion.
There was one very special physician among the marchers: Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla, the daughter of a saint. Her mother, St. Gianna Beretta Molla, gave birth to her in 1962, a few days before succumbing to cancer. St. Gianna is considered the patron of the pro-life movement.
Also marching was Reggie Littlejohn, founder of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, an organization that has saved countless baby girls in China from the scourge of abortion.
There were several groups providing music, including a seminarian-led drum and chorus contingent that produced a series of loud pro-life chants and rallying cries which could have done justice to any major Italian soccer match with their continuous, unbridled enthusiasm and high decibels.
Placards and banners carried pertinent, sometimes poignant messages and slogans, many of which rhymed in Italian—“Aborti? Bimbi morti!” (Abortions? Dead babies!) One banner declared: “Abortion? No! Real men know how to make sacrifices!” Mindful of the low birthrate in Italy, another read: “+nascite – aborti” signifying: “more births, fewer abortions.”
A group of cheerful and hardy Neapolitans wearing light blue T-shirts, who simply called themselves “The Parish of Life,” provided a guitarist and singer all along the route. They also had the audacity to carry a large banner with a message that supported children while denouncing two of the most egregious sponsors of abortion: George Soros, who provides funds for pro-abortion organizations worldwide, and Emma Bonino, a radical parliamentarian who is considered the architect of Italy’s abortion Law 194 of 1978. Since then, the law has enabled an estimated 6 million abortions in Italy. One small placard carried by many marchers simply stated: “Abort 194.”
The seemingly endless March through the center of Rome ended alongside the fabled “Vittoriano”—the massive white marble monument to King Victor Emanuel II, the first king of unified Italy, which also contains the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Between the impressive monument and the tall, majestic umbrella pine trees opposite it, a podium had been set up for key speakers and March organizers.
Virginia Coda Nunziante, the March’s president, spoke with force and conviction to assembled marchers. She referred to the “great moral and civil struggle” to stamp out abortion, and stressed “our determination not to fall back, not to accept compromises because no compromises are possible regarding innocent human life.”
Italy’s 41-year-old abortion law “must be abrogated,” she stated unequivocally, even though this objective will need time to accomplish. It will be “dismantled piece by piece,” she added, while citing some recent pro-life victories in places such as Alabama.
A good place to start, she indicated, would be with financing. Every year, between 200 and 300 million euros are spent in Italian hospitals on abortion. “How can it be,” she went on to ask, “that if you want an abortion you get red carpet treatment and everything is easy and organized, but if you want to go ahead with a pregnancy, the path is full of obstacles and also rather onerous?”
This year’s March also took issue with euthanasia as the Italian parliament is considering its legalization so that Italy can join northern European neighbors where deliberate life-taking is widespread. Indeed, Italy has one of the world’s most rapidly aging populations, with some of the highest longevity numbers in the world: 85.2 years for women and 80.8 for men. Virginia Coda Nunziante made touching reference to the country’s stark and sad reality: “Many foreigners observe that we don’t see many children in Italy; we see many more elderly. Actually the joy of life that used to characterize our country is being slowly extinguished.”
Other speakers included Michelle Kaufman, the founder of the pro-life movement in New Zealand, who may have picked up a tip or two from the Rome March to take home as she plans for Wellington’s third March for Life later this year.
Another pro-life champion who spoke was Alejandro Geyer, who successfully led the battle in Argentina opposing the liberalization of abortion. He triumphantly held aloft the light blue scarf worn and waved by Argentine pro-life supporters—their answer to the green scarves of abortion supporters. At the end of his remarks, Geyer gave the scarf to his Italian counterpart.
While there were video testimonies supporting the March from two Italian bishops, and one impassioned pro-life message delivered live by a Roman priest, curiously absent was any statement whatsoever from the Vatican or Pope Francis.
Not unlike what often transpires in the United States, the pro-life March received scant press coverage. Rome organizers took particular issue with the two major government-operated TV channels, which didn’t cover the event at all. They were sufficiently angered to start a petition directed at the stations’ senior management.
In contrast, the American based EWTN provided global coverage of the March for the first time, bringing to Rome a transmission vehicle and equipment from their European base in Cologne, Germany.
As more and more Italians and others focus on the defense of life, the need for more births, and the preservation of traditional families, preparations already are under way for Italy’s 10th National March for Life. May 23, 2020, may well break all attendance records—and even force media recognition, not to mention some notice from the Vatican!