The 42nd March for Life again lived up to its reputation, drawing hundreds of thousands of mostly young marchers who oppose abortion.
Except for a 40-minute delay at the Supreme Court, where pro-choice demonstrators blocked the street and refused to leave until police took some of them into custody, the march went off smoothly, under mostly sunny skies and mild temperatures.
The crowd, which poured in from all corners of the country, roared when they heard that Pope Francis tweeted the march’s motto, “Every life is a gift,” and the hashtag #marchforlife on his @Pontifex Twitter feed.
“We are the pro-life generation and we will not remain idle. It is our job to protect our brothers and sisters in the womb and their right to life,” said Julia Johnson, a senior at Shanley High School in Fargo, North Dakota. The Catholic school had closed this week, so eight busloads of students, teachers and chaperones could drive for 24 hours to the march and carry the lead banner.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged the marchers to be compassionate with people who disagree with them or who have experienced abortion. Be “missionaries of peace,” he said.
Several speakers talked about choosing life even when the unborn child is found to be imperfect.
Eight or more of every 10 unborn children with disabilities are aborted. “That’s just wrong, isn’t it?” said Jeanne Monahan-Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Washington Republican and a leader of the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus, said her son, who was born with that distinctive chromosomal anomaly, has strengthened her convictions that every life matters.
“That extra chromosome has brought my family a whole bunch of joy,” she said.
Mrs. McMorris Rogers and other speakers addressed the legislative drama on Capitol Hill: Instead of voting as promised Thursday for a bill that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks because of the ability of a fetus to feel pain at that stage of life, the House took up — and passed — a bill to block federal funding of abortions, especially in the new health care insurance plans.
Rep. Christopher Smith, New Jersey Republican, said the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which he introduced, is necessary to end people’s “complicity” in paying for abortions, especially when they oppose the procedures.
The House will soon take up the pain-capable bill, Mr. Smith added. “We will bring it to the floor and we will pass it.”
“The Senate will stand with the House” as it passes pro-life legislation, said Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina Republican.
The now-massive March for Life is held on the Jan. 22 anniversary of the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton Supreme Court rulings that made abortion a federal constitutional right.
As is typical, Thursday’s marchers were peaceful, singing and praying as they moved toward the Supreme Court. Most of the shouts were simply, “Life!” but a few groups chanted, “Hey Obama, yo mama chose life,” or sang to the tune of Psy’s Gangnum Style, “Ohhh, save the babies. Oh, oh, oh, marchin’ pro-life style!”
Sara Silander, a 21-year-old senior from Jacksonville, Florida, who is president of Georgia Tech Students for Life, said, “I have always been taught that we should respect the dignity of everyone, including the unborn. We’ve always been told to protect the minorities, the impoverished and everyone, and that is so important, but we have also include the unborn.”
“I drove all the way from Michigan with my friends to be here. And I wanted to be here to walk for the unborn. I believe that little babies are just as precious inside of the womb as they are outside of it,” said Stephanie Mestizy, 25.
“I loved that the pope tweeted about [the March for Life],” said Kathleen Gathright, 19, who helped organize six buses of students — including their drum corps — from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.
The march halted around 2 p.m. as the first line neared the Supreme Court. About 100 pro-choice demonstrators, many with a group called StopPatriarchy.org, stood in the road — surrounded by police — chanting, “Abortion on demand, without apology.”
After about a half-hour, the police sought to clear the road. Many abortion supporters moved onto the sidewalks, but about 10 resisted and were taken into custody by U.S. Capitol Police.