Our Vigil for the Voiceless
Anne Rampa and her husband, Jim Dowling, are veteran pro-life activists of almost 4 decades. Last December, they were arrested for breaching an abortion mill exclusion-zone in Brisbane; and honoured the truth by stating that ‘the law itself is a crime.’ In this exclusive article, Anne writes of her experience – and how exclusion-zones have hampered their 35-year-old vigil for the voiceless.
For the past 35 years we have held a 3 day vigil on the footpath outside the oldest abortuary in Brisbane. The vigil starts at midnight on Christmas night till 5pm on the 28th, the feast of the Holy Innocents. It continues day and night, rain or shine, and is also a fast, some only drinking water. It is a reflective time of companionship around our grief about abortion, our preparedness to make a sacrifice of our time and energy and comfort to resist it, and our shared experience of the anger or support that come our way because of our presence and stance. We hold signs that are pretty inoffensive, like “Support Mothers Not Abortion”, “Jesus Was an Unborn Child”, and “Human Rights for all Human Beings”. But they offend anyway, and every vigil we are the butt of abuse, anger, and sometimes violence. However, we have stayed the course. Although people often phoned the police to complain, we were legally allowed to stay, and we usually had a conversation with police at some time during every vigil. The clinic was usually closed.
The laws against permissive abortion were always in place, however no-one was ever prosecuted for performing and aiding in the procurement of illegal abortions. Over the last 42 years we made a very conservative estimate that 60,000 babies had been killed in that building alone.
The situation was reversed this last Christmas however, and for the first time we were illegal and the clinic was completely legal. However, as you might have guessed, we did not last long before being arrested for our ‘illegal’ vigil. Although I suggested to the police that we get a 42 year period of grace too, and that they turn a blind eye to our illegality, they felt obliged to arrest us as it was ‘The Law’.
I was sick when the vigil started, and my husband Jim began the night alone on the footpath. When I turned up at 11 am he was being arrested. The police opted not to arrest me as I had not been sitting with him, so I gathered up his chair and water and headed back home to spend more time recovering from my illness. The next day I returned around midday and was greeted by our local newspaper journalists. I did an interview and photos were taken, just as the police turned up again. I ended up having a very long conversation with them about our refusal to obey this new law, and abortion and its effects on our society. In the end I thought I was about to be arrested, so a priest friend who had come to keep me company gathered up my chair and signs and left with them. The police then decided that since I didn’t have any signs, they didn’t have to arrest me, so they left! I then phoned and had the signs and chair brought back, and stayed another 2 hours, but the police never came back. Since I didn’t want to stay overnight by myself, and had also had a couple of people threaten me, I went home for the night.
On the final day of the vigil I returned at 7 am and set up with my signs again. Almost as soon as I sat down, a channel 7 cameraman arrived, so I did another interview. This time the police came and arrested me pretty quickly, which was all captured on camera.
The watch house has fantastic acoustics, and although my voice is pretty rusty I did a good job singing all my favourite hymns and songs and Gregorian chants. My cell mates were both scared about getting jail sentences, so we prayed for each other to good effect. One didn’t go to jail, and the other only got a short sentence. There were hugs and high 5’s all round.
Both Jim and I had refused to sign conditions about not returning to the clinic, until the vigil time had passed. Consequently Jim was in the watch house for over 2 days, and I spent the day in there. We had both fasted on water only for the 3 days. When we were released from the watch house another newspaper was there outside to get an interview. Considering we didn’t do any media releases, and I left publicity up to the Holy Spirit, He did a pretty good job!
We return to court for a mention on 23rd January, and will plead not guilty to this unjust law.