Rachel Lanz worked as a social media specialist for World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland and continues to volunteer on the WYD social media English team. She has a B.S. from Benedictine College in Journalism and Mass Communications. After taking a year to teach English in Spain, she went back to writing, working as the journalism intern for EWTN in Rome.
Thousands of Italians danced, sung, drummed, and prayed their way on Saturday, May 19, to Rome’s central hub of Piazza Venezia to say no to abortion.
“What we would like to do with the march is to create a culture of life in order to send a message to young people that abortion is the killing of a person,” said Virginia Coda Nunziante, event organizer.
Some of the event speakers included Viviane Lambert, the mother of 42-year-old Vincent Lambert, seriously brain damaged and under the pressure of the hospital switching off his life support; an Italian girl with Down syndrome who explained why life is beautiful; and Janet Morana, Co-Founder of the Speak No More Campaign and Executive Director of Priests for Life.
The eighth March for Life in Italy was different from any other this year because it was also a march for Alfie Evans, who was granted Italian citizenship during his battle for life.
“Alfie shows us the gravity that if we don’t react, such laws will come into our country and fight against the will of the parents,” Nunziante said.
Nunziante was inspired by the March for Life in Washington D.C. and wanted to replicate it, knowing that if she wanted Italy to bring pro-life to the front lines of political debate, it was her duty to do it.
Forty years ago, Italy made abortion legal during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy in May 1978. Since then, 6 million Italian babies have been aborted.
Abortion counseling used to be in Catholic hands in the public hospitals, however, few continue to provide Catholic counseling and abortion is allowed if insisted.
Marina Casini Bandini, president of Italian’s Movement for Life, told CNA that emergency contraception has multiplied and hid the number of abortions. In 2016, 404,000 packages were delivered.
Nunziante hopes that the government follows in Trump’s footsteps to take away abortion funds from the country’s budget.
Some Italian politicians also traveled to Rome to defend their belief.
“Every time you put your fingers inside the gears of life, you get out bloody fingers,” said Michele Jacobelli, mayor of a small village from Bergamo. “If we do not participate to vote, then someone will decide for you.”
The main obstacle is to convince the Italian people that it’s necessary today to give a stronger message, Nunziante said.
She explained that even though most Italians are Catholic, it is not easy for them to express their religious beliefs in the public square. Many think that they can’t change the laws and must put it into practice in the best way.
Hard to believe with Rome being the home to the Vatican.
This was seen through a recent rage from anti-abortion billboards that appeared in the city before the march declaring, “Abortion is the prime cause of femicide in the world.”
Behind the billboardswas Madrid-based group CitizenGo, a global community dedicated to defend life using online petitions and action alerts, and had a big presence at the march.
Local authority leader, Francesca Del Bello, told BBC that the posters were "offensive to every woman, especially for those who had the difficult experience of abortion or violence."
“How can someone suggest abortion to anyone when they hear the damages,” Morana said, that clearly disagree with Bello’s statement. “The abortion industry exploited these women. The last thing we want to do is exploit them.”
Morana’s message to the Italian people was to raise awareness of the damage abortion has on women and promote the healing services available.
“Abortion is not the unforgivable sin. There is healing and forgiveness in the Church. Mercy is there,” Morana says to women suffering from the effects of abortion.
One of these services is Rachel’s Vineyard, a weekend retreat to release and reconcile painful post abortive emotions and begin the process of renewal through therapy, spiritual guidance and the sacraments.
“The retreat allows the family to put humanity back into the child and entrust him or her to the Lord,” Morana said.
Rachel’s Vineyard started in Italy around five years ago and Morana hopes to bring this retreat to every country, adapt it to the culture and raise awareness among the “walking wounded” to bring them back to healing and forgiveness.
Despite the hardships Italy faces in defending life, Nunziante has seen more recognition and enthusiasm for the march over the years.