Families, church groups, and young people flood the National Mall for the annual March for Life
By Juliana Chan Erikson
(WNS)–Tens of thousands turned out on the National Mall today as part of the March for Life, the pro-life movement’s annual rally protesting abortion on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
Crowds comprised primarily of church groups and young adults traipsed through mud-caked grass chanting pro-life slogans and holding signs calling for an end to abortion. Milder weather and broadened social networking efforts likely contributed to the healthy turnout; some attendees noted last year’s single-digit temperatures kept many of them away.
Thousands of pro-life proponents head toward the U.S. Supreme Court building Thursday.
Joi Pulley, 30, from St. Louis, Mo., said 31 members of her parish came to the rally today, up from the nine who made the 16-hour bus trip last year. She was there to chaperone high school students from her youth group, all of whom were bundled up for the wind but said they were having fun meeting other young people in the pro-life movement.
Jill Varpness brought all four of her children, ranging in age from 2 to 8, because she wanted to teach them the importance of this issue, even if they didn’t understand it right now. She looked at her 4-year-old daughter, who was holding a sign with a black-and-white photo of a baby, and said, “She said this morning that we’re going to walk for the babies.’”
The U.S. House of Representatives had been set to vote today on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would have banned almost all abortions five months into pregnancy, but Republicans canceled the vote Wednesday night. Instead, the House voted and passed a bill prohibiting federal funding for abortions, a piece of pro-life legislation that has passed before. Lawmakers speaking at the march vowed to keep abortion on the agenda through today’s vote and other measures.
“Let me say that the Senate will stand with the House on legislation that protects life,” said Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who was among 22 other lawmakers present at the march. “Our nation will rise together to be a force for good, a force for life.”
Despite the setback in Congress, pro-life proponents on the march still had much to cheer about. In addition to abortion rates falling to their lowest levels in 40 years, the past year also saw 12 states enact new regulations further restricting access to abortions. Teen-pregnancy rates also were on the decline, according to government statistics.
Bethany Goodman, assistant director for March for Life, agreed the statistics on abortions and teen pregnancy were good for both sides of the debate, but said the march’s ultimate goal is to promote a cultural shift in how people view abortion.
“We want to see a culture where it’s unthinkable to have an abortion, unthinkable not only to see the harm it would do to the unborn child, but also to the potential damage it causes to the mother,” she said.
But the opinions of some outside observers walking in the nation’s capital showed the movement still has work to do in realizing the culture Goodman envisions. A group of high school students on a class trip from Georgia were caught in the middle of the march and said the crowds were excessive, disruptive, and did little to change their opinions.
“It’s a free country but they keep taking our rights away,” said 17-year-old Chase Bradley. “If a girl got raped, she wouldn’t have a choice. They say it’s a gift from God but it doesn’t sound like it to me.”