Despite forecasts of rain, the U.S. pro-life movement came out in force on Jan. 23, the day after the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, to protest the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion-on-demand and urge politicians to enact protection for the unborn.
While the media generally reported that “thousands” took part in the March for Life in downtown Washington D.C., online reports by people who have attended in the past estimate that it was equal to previous years which have attracted approximately 200,000 people, although Steve Jalsevac of LifeSiteNews.com said it might have been as many as 400,000. Most of the participants were youth, many carrying signs from their universities and high schools, some of whom travelled across the country to take part. A Youth March for Life earlier in the day had to be cancelled due to the weather.
The weather did not seem to dampen the spirits of those at the march, though. Joe Scheidler, national director of the Pro-Life Action League, told LifeSiteNews.com, “it’s a rainy miserable day, and yet it hasn’t bothered anybody,” explaining, “the enthusiasm; the singing; the chanting; the bands. It’s true that we’re commemorating, but there is a sort of celebration too, because of so much that’s happening.”
Several Republican politicians spoke at the march, including House Speaker John Boehner. The Republican leader told the crowd a “bipartisan majority” in Congress “is standing up for life.” He added: “It’s an honour to serve with men and women committed to protecting the sanctity of life,” noting “we may disagree in other areas, sometimes starkly, but we are one and the same on this.” Boehner said, “defending life is not a matter of party … it’s about standing on principle.”
Boehner said the “two founding principles” of life and liberty are “intertwined” and “form the core of our national character.” He said, “When we affirm the dignity of life, we affirm our commitment to freedom. When we don’t affirm life, when life is cheapened or weakened, here or abroad, freedom itself is diminished.”
Other GOP leaders who addressed the march included Rep. Chris Smith (N.J.) and Eric Cantor (N.Y). Senator Rand Paul (R, Kentucky), son of Rep. Ron Paul who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, was detained at the airport in Lexington for refusing a security pat-down and missed the march, where he was scheduled to speak.
The march is the culmination of three days of events such as dinners, prayer services, Masses, conferences, and activism, including meeting elected representatives in Congress.
The National Right to Life Committee’s educational branch released a report, “Abortion Statistics: Data and Trends,” prior to the march noting that since 1973, 54 million babies have been killed by abortion. NRCL educational director Randall K. O’Bannon, noted that means there are 3300 abortions every day or one every 30 seconds.
The report relies on statistics from the Planned Parenthood-founded Guttmacher Institute, finding their numbers more reliable than the Centers for Disease Control which since the mid-1990s have under-estimated the abortion number by about 200,000 annually. There are now about 1.2 million surgical and chemical abortions annually, down from 1.55 million each year in 1990.
President Barack Obama released a statement saying that abortion is a “sensitive and divisive issue” and claimed that all Americans are determined to “prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant women and mothers, prevent the need for abortion, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption.” Yet, he stated clearly, “I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose.”
A West Coast March for Life in San Francisco attracted 40,000 participants.
The National March for Life in Ottawa will be held May 10 and most provincial capitals will have regional marches for life around the same time. About 18,000 attended the march in Ottawa last year.