"With news outlets treating the World Congress of Families as farcical ... attendees were simply being led to further distrust any information that did not come filtered through pro-life media channels."In the morning a young Christian couple with two small children in tow ran the gauntlet of protesters to get into the event. “Why are you bringing your children here, you bigots?!” several of the protesters shouted, as the police swept in and created a human wall to protect them. These children would remember this moment forever, but would they side with the angry people in funny clothes who hurled abuse at their parents? Predictably, within the conference, almost everyone seemed apprehensive around journalists. “A pretty young lady came and asked me about the protesters,” I heard one older man say to another. I could immediately tell he was talking about one of the journos. “I’m not going to play into their hands! What do they want me to say: ‘they’re all idiots’?” Many of the journalists who covered the conference did nothing to assuage such fears. When I checked my RSS feed to find stories from the conference, I sighed. One journalist had misrepresented anti-abortion activist Dr Angela Lanfranchi by suggesting that Lanfranchi had only cited studies involving rats to support her breast cancer-abortion link thesis in her speech. But Lanfranchi had presented a swath of research, including at least one recent study involving several hundred Chinese women. I was one of the only writers that had managed to stick it out until the final session, and now I realised that at least some of the conference-goers were using their phones to read how the press was reporting events. At the end of the last session, in which Larry D. Jacobs, managing director of the WCF, flippantly agreed that denying pain relief to Russian women was potentially a good idea, an audience member had taken the roving microphone and told all conference-goers that Lanfranchi’s session had been misreported. “This is the media ... destructive people ... everything they twist and turn!” two women sitting directly behind me lamented. The woman sitting behind me, believing I worked for the same online publication, peered at my notebook. She could see that the last note I had taken was "brushed off idea of pain relief being withheld to Russian women seeking abortion". “Are you going to report it like that?” she said. “Do you write for them?” With news outlets treating the World Congress of Families as farcical, as a setup for a series of jokes, attendees were simply being led to further distrust any information that did not come filtered through pro-life media channels. During one speech, a speaker mentioned The Sydney Morning Herald, to snickers from the audience. Another speaker sardonically urged journalists in the room to ask audience members whether they were afraid of being in a hall full of violent people. There was no major news publication conference attendees felt they could trust; The Australian predictably offered the most sympathetic coverage by running an AAP story that limited its coverage to the protest, with only fleeting mention of the content covered at the conference itself. When I made my way out of the World Congress of Families, all the police and protesters had left. Earlier, I’d spoken to Sam Castro from the Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance, who had explained that the protesters’ intention was always to leave early. “We rid the event of every elected representative,” she said. “Our goals have already been achieved.” An elderly woman stepped out of the church compound, its gates now wide open, and looked at the graffiti that had been scribbled across the road. “Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it”, somebody had written in red chalk. “Bigots are really shit,” somebody had written in green. She looked baffled. Noting that the protesters had left, the old woman smiled, perhaps assuming this meant they had been forcibly removed by the police. “We have won the victory in Jesus’ name,” she muttered, before shuffling off down the road, back to her car.
Little common ground and less understanding at pro-life conference
Freelance writer Connor Tomas O'Brien attended the World Congress of Families. He discovered angry protesters and outraged attendees -- with neither side willing to give an inch.