- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2001

Thousands of pro-life advocates yesterday held their annual "March for Life" on the U.S. Supreme Court with a newfound hope that the current administration will be more sympathetic to their cause than the last.

Against a bitterly cold, snow-laced backdrop, the demonstrators cheered President Bush's statement to them reaffirming his support for the right-to-life movement.

"We share a great goal to work toward a day when every child is welcome in life and protected in law," Mr. Bush said in his statement read by Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican.

March organizers said more than 100,000 pro-life advocates turned out yesterday for the 27th annual march to protest Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion

Law enforcement agencies did not provide crowd estimates.

The pro-life protesters made their way peacefully from the Ellipse down Constitution Avenue NW to the Supreme Court building on First Street NE in a 1 and 1/2-hour march.

"Today, you are gathered to remind our country that one of [our] ideals is the infinite value of every life," Mr. Bush told the marchers in his statement. "You see the weak and defenseless and try to help them. You see the hardship of many young mothers and their unborn children and you care for them both."

Nellie Gray, president of the March for Life Fund, which has sponsored the protest since it begin in 1974, told the crowd she had invited Mr. Bush and was disappointed he did not attend the rally. But Miss Gray said she will continue to support him.

No president has ever participated in the annual right-to-life march, and few have greeted the crowd with words as sympathetic to the cause as Mr. Bush.

Yesterday's march included rallies at the Washington Monument, where religious leaders, pro-life activists and members of Congress spoke to the marchers amid the colorful and sometimes graphic pro-life banners.

Holding a large, brightly colored sign that read "Michigan Loves Our Pro-Life President," John Audretsch, 58, said he has faith that Mr. Bush will follow through on his campaign promise to oppose abortion.

Kathy Kvalvaag, 42, of Laudington, Mich., said she believes Mr. Bush and his nominee for attorney general, former Sen. John Ashcroft, will fight for the pro-life community.

"I know his heart is good," Mrs. Kvalvaag said. "I think Bush's place is to educate people about making the right choice."

Other marchers carried signs that displayed everything from simple messages like "Stop Abortion" and "Defend Life" to enlarged photos of aborted, dismembered fetuses.

The graphic signs, which have been part of pro-life marches for years, force people to pay attention to the pro-life cause, said Sheri Kraeger of Port Leyden, N.Y.

"The American people think abortion is all right as long as they keep it out of their sight," Ms. Kraeger, 20, said as she held a sign showing a photo of a 21-week-old fetus. "Maybe if they see it enough, we'll have some success at stopping babies from being killed."

About 1.5 million abortions are conducted nationally each year, according to pro-life and pro-choice groups.

Only a handful of counterdemonstrators challenged the pro-lifers yesterday. Four or five hecklers traded barbs with the protesters on the steps of the Supreme Court.

Police arrested 12 pro-life protesters who knelt and prayed in a demonstration against the abortion pill RU-486 in front of a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) building in Southwest yesterday.

Officers with the Federal Protective Service arrested five juveniles and seven adults, all members of the Christian Defense Coalition. They were charged with blocking an entrance and released with a citation, officials said.

The arrests were anticipated and peaceful, according to police spokesmen and the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, a longtime pro-life activist and director of the Christian Defense Coalition.

"We planned for these arrests," said Mr. Mahoney, who was one of 250 demonstrating outside the FDA.

Mr. Bush said during the campaign that he did not think he would have the authority as president to overturn the FDA's approval of the pill.

Demonstrators were thrilled when Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, announced that Mr. Bush yesterday reversed an executive order of President Clinton and will block U.S. funds from being used by family-planning groups that provide abortion counseling overseas.

Among the pro-life protesters was some disagreement over Mr. Bush's commitment to the cause, with at least one longtime activist saying she does not trust the president to be vigilant in fighting for a right to life.

"Mr. Bush needs to see the reality of what abortion does to a person. It's not a political issue," said Judie Brown, president of 400,000-member American Life League.

Mrs. Brown was particularly scornful of first lady Laura Bush, who last week said she didn't think Roe vs. Wade should be overturned. "I think Laura Bush was totally Clintonesque," she said.

But most of the crowd apparently agreed withAmber Krampe.

"I think [Mr. Bush is] going to stop abortions," said the 14-year-old protester from Owensboro, Ky. "We're here to stop abortions."

• Arlo Wagner and John Drake contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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