We Went To The "Day Of The Unborn Child" Anti-Abortion Rights Rally
"I just think murder is murder and just because a woman is a woman doesn't mean she can murder someone."
Vladimir Prtenjaca was one of the hundreds of Christians gathered in Sydney on Sunday to pray for an end to abortion.
"It is about saving babies' lives, because every life matters and even science says that," Prtenjaca told BuzzFeed News. He attended the rally with an embroidered image of St Patrick – "the Arnold Schwarzenegger of patron saints" – on a pole.
Global anti-abortion organisation Family Life International describes the Day of the Unborn Child as one for Christians to "remember the millions of unborn children whose lives have been ended by the violence of abortion".
After a mass at St Mary's Cathedral, Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher led the group to NSW Parliament House where he began a series of prayers.
Sue Hill travelled from Culburra on the NSW south coast to join the procession.
"We are here to stop abortion, and to pray for the mothers and their babies, and pray that people become aware of the crime of abortion – where lives are being lost and mothers are being traumatised," Hill told BuzzFeed News.
"The choice was made at the conception of the child, and then there is no choice."
When asked what women who didn't have a "choice" about their pregnancy should do, Hill said: "Adoption is the only option".
Picton man Rob Smith said it was his "duty" to walk against abortion on Sunday.
"I just think murder is murder and just because a woman is a woman doesn't mean she can murder someone just because it is in her body," Smith told BuzzFeed News.
"Once the heart starts beating you can't stop it."
Smith said men needed to support women they impregnated.
"If some knuckle-dragger tries to [force] her to have an abortion they should be flogged," he said.
"If we don't have the right to life, frankly, we don't have the right to anything."
A group of pro-abortion Sydneysiders gathered nearby for a counter-rally to what the organisers called a "shameless display of anti-woman, anti-abortion rights and anti-scientific propaganda" which sought to "shame" people who had had abortions.
Speakers included NSW Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi, who has introduced a bill to remove abortion from the state's criminal code and establish safe access zones around hospitals and clinics where abortion is provided, in order to protect patients from harassment by protesters.
"There is an element of conservatism and religion from MPs in NSW and that is why abortion law hasn't been reformed for the past 100 years," Faruqi told BuzzFeed News.
"But MPs need to develop a backbone and align with modern medical practice and the views of an overwhelming majority of people in NSW."
"I am at this rally to make sure that we have enough support to decriminalise abortion when my bill comes up for debate in May."
Polling by the Greens Party found a woman's right to choose had "overwhelming support" in the community, with 70% of Sydneysiders supporting decriminalisation and 87% supporting safe access zones.
In 1994 a NSW woman tried to sue a clinic for failing to diagnose her pregnancy until it was too late to have an abortion, and her medical negligence case rapidly became a landmark case about the legal status of abortion in the state.
"I used to be quite religious until the church that was supposed to save me actually sexually abused me, and that was a turning point for me," said one 19-year-old pro-abortion rights protester, who requested anonymity.
"Also, being a gay person growing up in a Catholic school where homophobia and misogyny were reinforced, I'm here to protest people using religion as a justification for this stuff."