The March for Life is one of the biggest events of the year for social conservatives. Although neither the National Park Service nor any other government agency publicly releases estimates of such demonstrations and rallies, organizers said about 650,000 people marched last year.
As testimony to the steady increase since the 1980s of social and religious conservatives — especially evangelical Protestants — in the Republican Party electoral coalition, House Speaker John A. Boehner, an Ohio Republican and a Catholic, addressed the rally last year.
“It wasn’t easy for my mother to have 12 children, but I’m sure glad she did,” Mr. Boehner said. “So I’ve never considered ‘pro-life’ to be a label or a position. It’s who I am, and it’s who we are as a people.”
The pro-life rally and march will run from noon to 1 p.m. with a warm-up event and concert in the hour before the rally begins its route up Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court Building on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Priebus made his decision after learning that about 20 members were planning to hire and share the cost of a bus to take them from the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Washington to the rally and back.
Responses to the march from Mr. Priebus‘ predecessors have ranged from quiet opposition to pro-life language in the party’s platform to a public and determined effort by Haley Barbour to quash attempts to deny RNC financing to pro-choice GOP candidates.
The Democratic National Committee platform has long featured a pro-choice plank supporting the 1973 Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in all states and territories.
“The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay,” its plank says.
In vivid contrast, the Republican platform reads in part: “Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.”
Some political observers see the American public in recent years moving in the pro-life direction.
A Gallup poll in May of 1,535 adults found 48 percent saying they consider themselves pro-life and 45 percent pro-choice, with 5 percent saying they are unsure or don’t know what the terms mean. An April NBC/Wall Street Journal poll of 1,000 adults found 52 percent thinking abortion should be illegal under all or almost all circumstances.
In a reflection of leanings on abortion by the press and the entertainment industry, 51 percent said they think most Americans are pro-choice.
Not so in reality, according the conservative American Enterprise Institute’s resident scholar Karlyn Bowman. Over four decades, she writes, a variety of polls show “opinion about abortion is stable, it is also deeply ambivalent. Americans are at once pro-life and pro-choice.
“On the one hand, substantial numbers tell the pollsters that abortion is an act of murder. On the other, they say that the decision to have an abortion should be a personal choice. … They believe in the sanctity of life and in the importance of individual choice.”
Many major donors — considered vital to the party’s competitiveness in elections — historically have opposed the Republican Party’s embrace of an abortion ban because it would, they feared, alienate female voters, particularly the unmarried and young.