- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2003

Tens of thousands of men, women, boys and girls gathered in subfreezing weather at the Washington Monument yesterday to protest the 30th anniversary of a U.S. Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, that made abortion a constitutional right.
The pro-life demonstrators listened to a series of speakers, including a U.S. senator, 11 members of the House of Representatives and one former congressman, who decried the decision as "immoral" and demanded that it be overturned.
"God bless America" and "God bless President George W. Bush" were oft-heard cheers and exhortations.
Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, was the only U.S. senator to address the rally. Former Rep. Bob Dornan of California and 11 current members of the House also spoke. All the speakers from Congress were Republicans.
The demonstrators whom organizer Nellie Gray, president of the March for Life Fund, estimated at more than 100,000 then marched up Constitution Avenue in a noisy parade to the Supreme Court building.
The slow-moving mass beat drums, waved flags and stabbed the sky with signs displaying such sentiments as "Women Deserve Better Than Abortion." Other signs identified state contingents. Parking was impossible anywhere near the National Mall. Tour buses idled nearby, unable to unload their sightseers.
Police on foot, horseback, motorcycles, in patrol cars, and on chairs behind monitors carrying surveillance feeds from 18 strategically placed video cameras monitored the protest and a small counterprotest.
"There were no problems. We had no trouble," D.C. police spokesman Officer Kenneth Bryson said.
While the surveillance cameras recorded the three-hour event, they were not needed, Officer Bryson said.
The bone-chilling weather was apparently the biggest problem confronting the demonstrators. The National Weather Service said the temperature at 1 p.m. was 26 degrees, but windchill made it feel closer to 14 degrees. Demonstrators seemed grateful to stand shoulder-to-shoulder around the speaker's stand, sheltering each other physically, as well as emotionally.
A woman with a baby carriage held a spray of balloons that declared "Children are a gift of love from God." She paused frequently to adjust the blankets covering her daughter and to return her bare hands beneath the covers.
"Pray for those appointed to the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade," said one of a score of speakers from a stand on the northeast corner of the Washington Monument grounds.
Mr. Bush was in St. Louis to give a speech on his tax-cuts plan, but he addressed the rally through a telephone hookup that was broadcast to the crowd.
Noting the cold weather, he thanked the demonstrators for turning out. "I admire your perseverance," he said.
"The March for Life upholds the self-evident truth of [the Declaration of Independence] that all are created equal, given the unalienable rights of life and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," Mr. Bush said. "That principle of America needs defenders in every place and every generation."
And those self-evident truths, he said, "call us to value and to protect the lives of innocent children waiting to be born."
Mr. Bush said he hoped Congress this year would pass legislation banning late-term or partial-birth abortions, "which I will sign." Partial-birth abortion, he said, "is an abhorrent procedure that offends human dignity."
He said he also would urge Congress to ban all human cloning. "We must not create life to destroy life," he said. "Human beings are not research material to be used in a cruel and reckless experiment."
"For 30 years, the March for Life has been sustained by constant prayer and abiding hope that one day every child will be born into a family that loves that child and a nation that protects that child," he said. "When that day arrives, you will have the gratitude of millions especially those who know the gift of life because you cared and you kept faith. May God bless you all and may God continue to bless America."
Rep. Steve Chabot, Ohio Republican, said the effort to overturn Roe v. Wade was a "noble cause," adding, "We will win this battle and the sanctity of human life will prevail."
Mr. Chabot noted that yesterday was his birthday, but "millions of innocent babies never got the opportunity to celebrate their birthday because someone decided they were an inconvenience."
Indiana Republican Rep. Mike Pence said, "Abortion is in steep decline in America today" because of the efforts of pro-life activists.
"Abortion is less available, less legal, and most importantly less morally acceptable than at any time since 1973," he said.
According to the nonprofit Alan Guttmacher Institute, abortions are becoming less common in the United States, particularly among teenagers, in part because of better contraception. The institute said the overall abortion rate fell from 24 abortions for every 1,000 women of childbearing age in 1994 to 21 abortions for every 1,000 women of childbearing age in 2000.
While pro-life demonstrators rallied on the Mall, Planned Parenthood Federation Inc. held a small counterrally in front of the Supreme Court in support of a woman's right to choose.
Susan Wills, 54, stood across the street from them with a sign that said: "Women Deserve Better Than Abortion."
"Abortion is a very tragic decision that most women learn to regret," Mrs. Wills said. "It's never a free choice they choose it because they have a lack of support from the boyfriends and their families. We feel they deserve our help to overcome the financial and emotional obstacles they face."
The group of roughly 200 pro-choice activists hoisted signs and chanted "Save Roe, act now" and "What do we want? Choice. When do we want it? Always."
Natalia Barolin, 23, said she joined the counterprotest because "our right to choose is being threatened by an [anti-abortion] agenda at the federal and state level."
The Supreme Court voted 7-2 on Jan. 22, 1973, to legalize abortions in the first three months after conception. Pro-life demonstrators said 42 million abortions have been conducted since the decision was handed down.
In the march, youths carried 30 Styrofoam boxes shaped like caskets emblazoned with the number of abortions performed in a specific year.
Marcinda Haedge, 53, from Dover, Del., came in on a bus to attend the march.
"We came to pray and also to witness. I feel strongly that when blacks were oppressed they had Martin Luther King Jr. to guide them and they could and did obtain their rights as human beings. It took 300 years for justice to come to blacks," Miss Haedge said.
"The pre-born children have no rights now with Roe v. Wade," she said, "but I pray that they will have rights and Roe v. Wade will eventually be overturned."
Jatrice Martel Gaiter, 46, president and chief operating officer of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington D.C., joined the counterrally.
"We're out here to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, [which] made a woman's right to have an abortion legal, " Ms. Martel Gaiter said.
"We have an [anti-abortion] president and many [anti-abortion] members of Congress who may select a Supreme Court justice by an [anti-abortion] litmus test," she said. "All of these issues converge to make a right to choose, birth control and comprehensive sexual education imperiled in the United States."
Also yesterday, the Feminist Majority Foundation began a two-day conference with more than 400 college students, who will discuss ways to maintain abortion rights.
Both sides held competing candlelight vigils last night in front of the Supreme Court.


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