At least 100,000 people, and perhaps as many as 250,00, from across the United States, as well as pro-lifers from around the world, took part in the annual U.S March for Life marking the 32 anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision in January.
Numbers were slightly lower than expected, due to a snowstorm in the northeast that prevented pro-lifers from New England, New York and Pennsylvania from making the trek to Washington D.C. However, the spirits of pro-lifers were still uplifted by the political momentum social conservatives have had since elections last November, words of encouragement from pro-life and religious leaders and politicians, and a phone call from President George W. Bush.
The Jan. 24 commemoration began with a Mass and pro-life youth rally at the MCI Centre, featuring thousands of youth. Later, they joined other pro-life advocates at the Ellipse, before beginning the traditional march to the U.S. Supreme Court.
With the White House in the background, Nellie Gray, president of the March for Life Fund, introduced congressmen, senators and other speakers who recounted recent legislative victories and positive developments within the culture. They offered thanks for all that the grassroots pro-life movement has done.
Bush spoke with Nellie Gray over the telephone and their conversation was broadcast to the crowd, whom Bush told: “I’m honoured to be a part of this tremendous witness that is taking place in our nation’s capital.” He said he and pro-lifers were united “in our understanding that the essence of civilization is this: the strong have a duty to protect the weak.” He congratulated the throng for their witness and work toward building a culture of life.
As he has in recent years, he reported the legislative progress made and highlighted that his Justice Department was battling in the courts to put into effect the partial-birth abortion ban that was passed in 2003.
Republican Senator Sam Brownback (Kansas) said, “The end of abortion on demand has started in America. In its place, a spring of life has begun.” Each speaker echoed Brownback and Bush’s optimism.
Behind the speakers on the stage, and throughout the pre-march rally, a contingent of women from Silent No More held signs proclaiming that they regreted their abortions. As Canadian Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes, who attended the event as he does each year, noted in the Campaign Life Coalition National News, “As has been the norm in recent years, the mourning of the millions who have died at the hands of America’s abortionists was balanced by the hopefulness and joyous praying, chanting and singing of tens of thousands of youth. Their courage and enthusiasm and determination signal that the pro-life movement will fight until every unborn child is protected by law.”
Participants noted the diversity of the crowd. John-Henry Westen, editor of LifeSiteNews.com, reported that the large crowd was composed of individuals from all racial and religious backgrounds, young and old, male and female. Westen later recalled on one block how one would see “a young fellow in his late teens with 30-inch-long spikes of dark hair and wearing a pro-life pin” and on the next, “three rabbis with long beards and traditional clothing and hats proudly (holding) up signs noting that the Jewish faith and scriptures forbade abortion.” He also noted a demonstrator dressed as Jesus walking barefoot in the snowy streets.
That sight was juxtaposed by one seen by Hughes, who noted that pro-lifers from Latin America tried to stay warm by stamping their feet and standing on cardboard signs.
With recent political victories, pro-lifers were upbeat and numerous pro-life organizations vowed to translate the enthusiasm of the March for Life into renewed activism. Pro-life groups expect battles over Bush’s judicial appointments, regulation of cloning and embryonic stem cell research, fetal pain legislation and funding for international agencies that support abortion.