Tens of thousands protested abortions in Bratislava

ĽSNS supporters disrespected the calls of the organisers not to display political advertising.

The pro-life march participants protested against what they call "the discrimination of the little ones". The pro-life march participants protested against what they call "the discrimination of the little ones". (Source: Sme - Marko Erd)

For the third time in three days the Námestie Slobody (Freedom Square) in central Bratislava became a venue of a major protest gathering.

On Sunday, September 22, tens of thousands of people from all around Slovakia gathered there for the National March for Life, organised mainly by the Roman Catholic Church."Man has not given life to himself; it was given to him," said Bratislava Archbishop Stanislav Zvolenský, speaking to the crowd before the march.

The pro-life march participants came out to protest the abortion laws currently valid in Slovakia. It is now legal to abort until the 12th week of pregnancy. The protesters argue that the law discriminates against unborn children.

"We want freedom for unborn children to be able to be born and live free human lives," said Marek Michalčík, one of the organisers, as quoted by the Sme daily.

After the initial speeches, the crowd moved towards Hodžovo Square and Štefánikova Street, past the Main Station back to the Námestie Slobody square.

This was the third national pro-life march; the first was held in 2013 in Košice and the second in 2015 in Bratislava. The marches are co-organised by the Conference of Bishops of Slovakia (KBS) in cooperation with the non-governmental organisation Kanet, and heavily promoted in churches around the country. Attendance was massive by Slovak standards: about 80,000 attended in 2013 and 2015, as estimated by the organisers. This time around, estimates say some 50,000 people marched in Bratislava.

The march was accompanied by a two-day programme, which on Sunday also featured a holy mass held in the Incheba Expo Arena in Bratislava.

Demands of the march

The march organisers state their aim is the "societal and legislative protection of the life of every human from conception until natural death".

In their manifesto, the protest organisers called on public officials, particularly MPs, the government and the president to do away with the law that allows abortions, but also to protect the "unique status of the marriage of man and woman as an irreplaceable bond" that has no alternative in society, to introduce an efficient family and demographic policy, and to actively support institutions that help families in need and pregnant mothers and their children.

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Moreover, the manifesto of the march calls on public officials to "express disagreement with such documents of international organisations that in Slovakia interfere with the constitutional values of marriage, family, equality between men and women, and the right of parents to raise their children".

ĽSNS appeared too

The organisers of the march put out a statement ahead of the march, on September 17, calling on all participants to refrain from violent or extremist expressions, and also from "inappropriate political and other advertising".

The far-right People's Party - Our Slovakia (ĽSNS) had been saying in advance that they would participate. They are also sponsoring one of the proposed amendments to the abortion legislation, which cuts down the deadline for legal abortion from the current 12 to only eight weeks.

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Organisers of the march did not reject support of the far-right party directly. The spokesman of the march Patrik Daniška said during a video interview with Sme two days before the march that "we have a common goal when it comes to protection of life".

ĽSNS members and supporters indeed came to the march wearing the green shirts with the party logo. When they pulled out the flags with the logo, organisers and also some people from within the crowd asked them to put them down.

"A strong mandate"

The organisers of the march feel the gathering gave them a strong mandate, "because people want change to happen". Patrik Daniška mentioned the four laws that are currently in the parliament which could represent the first step toward the change.

"They view the issue from different angles, but we support each of them and hereby call on MPs to vote for them," Daniška told the press after the march, as quoted by the SITA newswire.

The march organisers have also unveiled a memorial plaque that should commemorate the 1.4 million people "who were not allowed to be born" in the 60 years of the existence of the law that legalised abortions in the state (then Czechoslovakia). They intend to place it at the SNP Square in Bratislava.

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