- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Abortion foes thanked President Bush yesterday for his efforts to protect the unborn while abortion rights advocates vowed more aggressiveness in protecting a woman's right to choose, as marches and vigils marked the 29th anniversary of U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision.
Supporters and opponents of the high court's landmark decision, which legalized abortion on demand, staged their annual marches to Capitol Hill to call attention to the issue and seek support for their position. Both sides have stepped up their efforts since a president took office last year who supports abortion opponents.
Abortion rights activists called for the election of officials who support women's right to choose, saying Mr. Bush's endorsement of abortion foes has led them to step up grass-roots outreach and political lobbying.
"The political deck is stacked against the women of the country," said Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which supports abortion rights. "A majority of Americans believe [in choice]. But pro-choice Americans must stand up now and make their voices heard lest the vocal minority successfully impose their will "
Pro-life activists said their movement is gaining momentum and praised the administration for its support. They vowed to fight any attempt to strengthen pro-choice legislation or any sanctioning of cloning human embryos for research.
"Nothing comes easily in this movement," said Carol Tobias, director of the political action committee for the National Right to Life Committee Inc. "In 2000, we had a taste of success when we helped to elected a pro-life president. We will continue to move forward."
Pro-lifers began with a rally at the Mall yesterday featuring a "Rock for Life" concert where hundreds of students carried signs and banners denouncing abortion. The rally, attended by thousands, culminated in the annual March for Life to the east steps of the Capitol, where there was a prayer service for the "unborn."
During the day, Mr. Bush called marchers to offer his support.
"This march is an example of an inspiring commitment and of deep human compassion," Mr. Bush said over a loudspeaker.
"Everybody there believes, as I do, that every life is valuable, that our society has a responsibility to defend the vulnerable and weak, the imperfect and even the unwanted; and that our nation should set a great goal that unborn children should be welcomed in life and protected in law."
The president, earlier this week, issued a proclamation designating Jan. 20 as National Sanctity of Human Life Day.
The president said he will continue to speak out on behalf of society's "most vulnerable members" and continue to support teen abstinence, parental notification for teens seeking abortions and bans on human cloning, abortions using public funds and partial-birth abortions. He did not call for outright outlawing of abortions.
Pro-lifers said they are thrilled to receive White House support, absent since former President Bush left office in 1993.
Choice advocates said they would fight to erode the president's influence in rolling back abortion rights and use the November elections to shore up political support for their position.
"Our clear message to the Senate is this: You may not negotiate away our rights," said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. "You have more to fear from the women's vote than from right-wing ideologies in the Bush administration. Come November, supporters of reproductive rights will remember every senator who failed to oppose George Bush's effort to stack the federal courts with anti-abortion, anti-women judges."
Mr. Bush has the authority to appoint Supreme Court justices sympathetic to abortion foes. Supporters of choice say reproductive rights hang by a thread and any change in the Supreme Court could reverse decades of reproductive freedom. Abortion opponents hope that if there is an opening on the Supreme Court the president will nominate a judge sympathetic to their views.
That makes November's elections with 435 House seats and 34 Senate seats up for grabs crucial to both sides. Proponents of abortion rights are hoping the elections will strengthen the slight Democratic majority in the Senate, which confirms Supreme Court nominations, and change a slim Republican majority in the House to a Democratic majority.
Abortion foes want Republicans to regain the Senate and to increase gains already made in the past year until the law is changed to ban abortions.
"The anti-choice movement has been waiting since Clinton was elected," said Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion Rights Action League. "They feel they are very close to their goal."
That is why Dax and Stacy Kingsland traveled from Lebanon, Ohio for the March for Life yesterday.
"We want to make a statement to the president and the nation," said Mrs. Kingsland. "Overturn Roe v. Wade."
Reproductive-rights supporters are sending their own message.
"We won't let them take away Roe v. Wade," said Shelley Smythe of New York, who said she was planning to attend a vigil on the Capitol steps later, titled "In their dreams."

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