Tens of thousands of abortion opponents — worried that they’ll face setbacks under a new liberal president — rallied Thursday on the National Mall in the annual March for Life to mark the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
The rally and subsequent march to the Supreme Court came two days after the swearing in of Barack Obama, which some saw as carrying the potential to reignite the grass-roots anti-abortion movement because of his pro-abortion policies.
The throng — young and old, black and white, bundled against the cold — made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court building. There a delegation laid 3,700 roses at the foot of the steps of the Supreme Court: one rose for each abortion each day in the United States.
Some marchers were veterans of other marches. The marches have kicked off every year on Jan. 22 since 1974, when the first March for Life took place on the west steps of the Capitol. An estimated 20,000 pro-life Americans rallied that day.
James Salt, director of Catholics United, tells the National Catholic Reporter that the pro-life movement has spent “36 years and at least $100 million” in opposing Roe v. Wade and yet it has only “incrementally changed the margins. There are still 1.3 million abortions a year in the United States.”
Although the President Barack Obama was formally invited to address the rally, he was a no-show.
In that invitation, the march organizers, including lead march organizer Nellie Gray of Life HQ, the key sponsor of the event, made their best pitch to the new president: “America needs your strong leadership as President of all of the people to stop the intentional killing of an estimated 3,000 preborn boys and girls each day and the brutalizing of mind, heart and body of pregnant mothers…”
As to that brutalizing, the marchers are supporting a bill recently reintroduced by Democratic Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.
Among other things, the bill seeks to: Provide counseling and shelter to pregnant women in abusive relationships who may be fearful of continuing a pregnancy in a crisis situation. Establish a national toll-free number and public awareness campaign to offer women support and knowledge about options and resources available to those facing an unplanned pregnancy. Give women free sonogram examinations by providing grants for the purchase of ultrasound equipment. Provide parents with information about genetic disability testing, including support for parents who receive a diagnosis of Down Syndrome. Establish nurse home visitation for pregnant and first-time mothers as an eligible benefit under Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Casey expects an uphill battle, but the multitasking marchers are also in town to do some heavy lobbying on the Hill.
Also on the marchers’ minds is worry over whether Obama will overturn a long-standing policy that bans federal funds to nongovernmental organizations for use outside the U.S. for abortion and birth control services or referrals.
Another concern for the March for Life activists is whether Obama or the Congress will overturn the so-called “Conscience Rule,” which President Bush signed just last month.
That rule allows anyone in the health system, from a surgeon to a pharmacist, to decline to offer a service or treatment that violates their personal conscience.
Pro-choice activists, however, are committed that the marchers are not the only visible force in the nation’s capital these days. The marchers will be confronted by local print and radio ads – all touting the theme that the real way to fight abortion is to reduce demand.
The ads are sponsored by RealAbortionSolutions.org, which supports “legislation that would advance the goal of abortion reduction by addressing the root causes.”
According to Gray, the marchers’ theme is wholly different: “Remember – the ‘Life Principles’ mean ‘Equal Care with ‘No Exception!’”
“The Life Principles focus on the fact that each human life begins at fertilization by any means, and society must provide equal care for the right to life of each born and preborn human,” Gray said.
March organizers explained that the primary goal of Life HQ at the march is to gather data on all participants and leverage that grass-roots power to organize and raise money for pro-life causes on a continual and project-based basis.
Backing up the marchers on Thursday were 300 volunteers deploying to promote the cause and the theme. Some 100,000 postcards are hitting the streets along with 100,000 Stickers, 1,000 signs and three banners.
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