Hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers protested the 37th anniversary of legalized abortion Friday, buoyed by polls and a recent Republican victory in Massachusetts that they said show public opinion may be finally swinging in their favor.
“Do you realize you live in a majority pro-life country?” Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, shouted to a crowd that filled four blocks of the National Mall from Seventh to 12th Street Northwest. “We are going to win this fight.”
Organizers estimated the crowd at the March for Life to number at least 200,000. A “virtual” march on Washington, hosted by Americans United for Life at www.virtualmarchforlife.com, attracted 74,925 “avatars” by late Friday afternoon. The March for Life marks the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.
After two hours of speeches from a variety of political and religious leaders, the mostly college-aged crowd marched up Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court under hazy skies in 45-degree weather.
Twenty-one members of Congress each took the podium to celebrate the current woes surrounding the Senate version of President Obama’s health care bill, which opponents say would expand federally subsidized abortion. Due to the surprise election Tuesday of Massachusetts state Sen. Scott Brown to the late Edward M. Kennedy’s U.S. Senate seat, Democrats are now one vote shy of the supermajority needed to overcome Republican filibusters.
“The health care bill is dead,” said Rep. Parker Griffith of Alabama, an oncologist who last month switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party. “They may be able to break off a piece or two but it was fundamentally bad.”
“There’s been a huge turn in the country,” said Rep. Chris Smith, New Jersey Republican. “Huge majorities are in our favor especially on funding of abortion. A lot of members of Congress have realized that the numbers have shifted.”
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican from Spokane, Wash., spoke to the crowd with her 2-year-old son, Cole, draped across her shoulder. Saying the little boy has Down Syndrome, “We get to press the restart button and get the health bill we want,” she said.
Listening to them was a large crowd of people with signs ranging from “Thank You Massachusetts” to “Abort This Administration.” A line of women, each holding a black sign with the lettering “I Regret My Abortion” stood shoulder to shoulder on the stage during most of the two hours.
Catherine Rayder, a parishioner of St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Reston, Va., brought 14 children to the demonstration.
“We feel it’s important to lead by example,” she said. “And the kids love this. It’s important to show them a peaceful protest for life.”
No counter protesters were visible on the Mall and rows of Catholic and Orthodox bishops encouraged the crowd not to give up. Metropolitan Jonah, head of the Orthodox Church in America, said he ordered both OCA seminaries to allow their students to take part in the march and put out word to his bishops to come.
“I believe it’s time for the Orthodox to step out in the public square,” he said. “Until now, our participation has been very limited.”
Three Orthodox Jewish rabbis came on stage to blow a shofar — a ram’s horn used to welcome in the Jewish New Year — and encourage listeners to have more children.
“The selfish liberals are not reproducing,” Brooklyn Rabbi Yehuda Levin said. “We Orthodox Jews are bringing in 7-14 children into a family. You too can have a holy baby.”
Speaking of the nation’s governors, “We have enough killing pharaohs in power,” he said. “Who’ll be the Moses to let our babies grow?”