Saturday, January 20, 2007

More than 20,000 people are expected tomorrow to come to the District to mark the 34th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling in the Roe v. Wade case.

Rallies are scheduled to begin at 8:45 a.m., followed by a March for Life procession and a youth Mass at the Verizon Center in Northwest.

The march is expected to begin at 1 p.m. and last more than three hours — starting on the Mall, between Fourth and Seventh streets Northwest, then moving east across Pennsylvania Avenue, past the U.S. Capitol and ending at East Capitol and Second streets Northeast, outside the Supreme Court.

The Metropolitan Police Department will restrict parking from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and close streets from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. to accommodate the march and the other events. Police have also activated the Joint Operations Command Center and their network of downtown surveillance cameras to monitor the activities.

Officer Israel James, a police department spokesman, said additional officers have been assigned to duty and they will share crowd control and other assignments with the U.S. Park Police and the U.S. Capitol Police.

About 100 people carrying signs with pro-life messages yesterday demonstrated outside the headquarters of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington in Northwest. The demonstration, sponsored by the American Life League, went on to Lafayette Park in front of the White House before marchers made their way to Union Station.

On Jan. 22, 1973, the court ruled on a Texas case that state abortion laws violated the U.S. Constitution’s right to privacy. The court ruling, in effect, protected privacy rights until about the seventh month of pregnancy.

The Archdiocese of Washington conducted its first rally, which it called the Rally for Life and Youth Mass, in 1995. As participation grew, the rallies were held in several places throughout the region until 2004, when they all were held at the Verizon Center, on F and Seventh streets Northwest.

Tomorrow’s rally is scheduled to begin at 8:45 a.m. with Christian music by the “Who Do You Say I Am?” band, while nearly 100 priests hear confessions nearby.

Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl will be joined by cardinals, bishops and priests from across the United States for the 10 a.m. Mass. Arlington Diocese Bishop Paul S. Loverde is expected to be among the participants.

Last year, several hundred youths were turned away because the center was filled to capacity, said Archdiocese spokeswoman Susan Gibbs.

As a result, a second rally and Mass will be celebrated at the same time at the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Constitution Hall at 18th and D streets Northwest. Cardinal Justin Rigali, of Philadelphia, will celebrate the Mass.

Many of the participants from Arlington will wear bright red headbands and hats, bearing the words “Arlington 4 Life.”

The yearly demonstrations coinciding with the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision have also drawn scores of counter demonstrators in support of abortion rights, but no formal marches or rallies have been announced.

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