Pro-choice demonstrators yesterday converged on the Mall and called for taxpayer-funded abortions and an end to U.S. foreign policy banning aid to abortion clinics abroad.
The March for Women’s Lives also served as a political rally in opposition to President Bush, with demonstrators pummeling an effigy of the president and others chanting, “Hey ho, George Bush has got to go.”
Mr. Bush recently signed into law the Unborn Victims of Violence Act that gives a fetus legal rights and the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act that barred certain types of late-term abortions. But the pro-choice marchers were as likely to denounce the war in Iraq as the president’s abortion stance.
“If you care about changing the direction of this country, it’s up to you,” Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, told the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators yesterday. “And you have to be willing to be a good citizen, to stand up for our rights, to stand up for our Constitution and to show up at the polls in November to elect John Kerry president of the United States.”
Mrs. Clinton said a similar pro-choice march in 1992 energized the Democratic Party and helped get her husband elected president.
“This year, we’ve got to do the very same thing,” she said.
Advocates said abortion rights are being weakened at the margins through federal and state restrictions and will be at risk of reversal at the core if Mr. Bush is elected to a second term.
“Know your power and use it,” Democrat Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, House minority leader, told the crowd. “It is your choice, not the politicians.”
Other speakers at the rally included D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, feminist Gloria Steinem, women’s rights activist Patricia Ireland and actress Cybill Shepherd.
“The antichoice advocates are hypocrites, … and they make me sick,” Miss Shepherd told the crowd.
The pro-choice activists began the march at the Mall, then walked past the White House before heading toward the U.S. Capitol. They ended the march with another rally in the afternoon at the Mall.
The U.S. Park Police no longer provides crowd estimates at events on the Mall. But a veteran Park Police officer told The Washington Times that the crowd appeared to number less than 500,000.
D.C. police unofficially estimated that between 500,000 and 800,000 took part, which would make the March for Women’s Lives the largest demonstration ever held on the Mall, topping the estimated 500,000 who protested for abortion rights in 1992.
Organizers of yesterday’s march estimated that 1.15 million persons attended.
About 600,000 people turned out for the largest recorded demonstration on the Mall — the Vietnam War Moratorium Rally — on Saturday, Nov. 15, 1969.