WASHINGTON – Abortion opponents from across the country marched on the Supreme Court on Friday to protest the landmark ruling that established a constitutional right to abortion 40 years ago, and they cheered on speakers who vowed to press for more restrictions on the practice.
Though some in the crowd were veterans of previous marches held annually since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, the majority seemed to be teenagers and young adults, many of whom carried signs identifying themselves as part of a pro-life generation.
Buses from across the country, mostly chartered by Catholic schools and organizations, brought groups of people to the National Mall in Washington for a pre-march rally in which politicians, religious leaders and activists decried the 55 million abortions they said had been performed since the Roe v. Wade decision.
The archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean OMalley, read a message posted early Friday by Pope Benedict XVI from his personal Twitter account: I join all those marching for life from afar, and pray that political leaders will protect the unborn and promote a culture of life.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, appeared on a giant video screen and vowed to work for passage of a bill banning taxpayer funding for abortions. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., told the crowd that she would fight for a bill she has introduced that would prohibit family planning grants from going to groups that provide abortions, such as Planned Parenthood.
Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., chairman of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, called President Obama, who has stated his commitment to protecting abortion as a constitutional right, the abortion president.
Know this, Mr. President, Smith said to loud cheers from the crowd of protesters. We will never quit.
The March for Life is typically held Jan. 22, the actual anniversary of the high courts Roe v. Wade ruling. This year, it was delayed until Friday to allow for cleanup after Mondays presidential inauguration and to make it easier to travel to the District of Columbia.
Despite a bitter, arctic cold that descended over the region, Fridays crowd was large. The march permit was for 50,000 people, though organizers said the attendance was several times that number.
The most commonly carried posters simply said Defend Life or showed a black-and-white photograph of a newborn infant, plump and healthy-looking. Posters with graphic images of aborted fetuses were rare.
Jeanne Monahan, the new head of the March for Life, said the movement is making progress in changing laws and attitudes. She said about 200 anti-abortion measures have been introduced in state legislatures and said Americans are becoming growing more pro-life.
Pro-life is the new normal in the United States, she told the crowd.
A group of 24 eighth-graders from Spiritus Sanctus Academy in Plymouth, Mich., spent the past year raising $3,000 for the trip through fish fries, rummage sales, can returns, paper recycling and poinsettia sales.
Going to the march has been an eighth-grade tradition at the school for several years, said Sister Maria Guadalupe, 37, who was chaperoning the class.
From the time theyre in kindergarten, we teach them about the dignity of the human person, she said.