|Leonora, Margaret, Rhoslyn|
From 2-6 October, Leonora Blackhall, SPUC Scotland’s education officer, Margaret Byars of ARCH (Abortion Recovery Care and Helpline) and Rhoslyn Thomas, SPUC’s youth & education officer, travelled to Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia. The aim of the trip was to support a local, newly-established pro-life group named Božji otroci (God’s Children), in their demonstration against the International Federation of Professional Abortion and Contraception Associates (acronym FIAPAC).Comments on this blog? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
FIAPC were holding their bi-annual conference in Ljubljana. SPUC supporters may remember that SPUC Scotland protested against FIAPC's presence in Edinburgh in 2012.
Valentina Pikelj is the founder and head of God’s Children. She became pro-life when she quit her job as a civil engineer to train as a nurse. During her training, she met nurses who felt forced to distribute abortion pills to mothers and had to witness the death of babies who had been delivered at 20 weeks and left to die. On one occasion, Valentina came into contact with a mother who decided to give up her baby for adoption. Valentina heard the other nurses asking why this mother hadn’t just aborted the child instead.
Valentina Pikelj (left) leads the march
Valentina felt useless in the fight against the culture of abortion that she had witnessed, but after participating in a campaign to oppose a law which would have allowed same-sex couples to adopt children, she came to the conclusion that something had to be done about abortion in Slovenia.
18 months ago, Valentina founded God’s Children, which enjoys a central location in Ljubljana, thanks to a supporter who allows use of the office. Božji otroci provide counselling services to mothers considering abortion and, through a small network of supporters, also provide material support such as baby clothes, cots and prams.
God’s Children’s is still in its infancy as a group, but it nevertheless managed to organise a day of praise and worship in the square opposite their office the weekend before the FIAPAC conference which, by their own estimate, attracted some 1,000 people. The day was advertised as Christian event rather than an explicitly pro-life event, but nonetheless included testimonies on abortion throughout the day.
God’s Children then organised a march the following weekend which processed through the city centre to the cultural centre where FIAPAC’s conference was being held. Outside the centre, participants prayed the Rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet together, whilst a separate un-affiliated pro-life group, led by Todd Hunnicutt, a minister for the International Church of Ljubljana (an independent church) stood closer to the entrance, holding pictures of aborted babies.
The representatives from SPUC returned to the conference centre the following day to pray and witness outside the centre once more, where they were passed by the FIAPAC conference delegates leaving for lunch. Some of them, it was noted with sadness, were clearly delegates from Ireland.
Titles of talks at the FIAPAC conference (the conference programme can be foundhere) were many and varied, including one delivered by Ann Furedi, Director of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), entitled ‘Safe abortion – a moral obligation: why is it so difficult to follow the evidence?’ and another by a representative of Marie Stopes International, ‘Marie Stopes International UK Abortion Study: The association between choice of method of abortion, postabortion contraception and the risk of having another unintended pregnancy’.
Furedi also co-chaired a workshop with a representative of Catholics for Choice entitled, ‘The value of our values in reproductive choice’.
It is believed that the conference had around 100 attendees and had numerous sponsors, including the World Health Organisation, IPAS and BPAS. More surprisingly, Cambridge University Press was also a sponsor.
Though the pro-life movement is very young in Slovenia, God’s Children know of at least four babies and mothers who have been saved from abortion through their efforts. They are very hopeful that with their prayers, many more happy ‘saves’ will occur in the future.