Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Thousands of pro-life protesters commemorating the 33rd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade court decision marched to the U.S. Capitol and the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday to urge lawmakers to overturn the ruling that legalized abortion.

President Bush praised the scores of church, school and advocacy groups that attended the annual March for Life as pursuing “a noble cause.” He also called on Congress to pass laws banning human cloning and restricting girls’ access to abortions without their parents’ approval.

“We’re working to persuade more of our fellow Americans of the rightness of our cause,” Mr. Bush told the protesters in a telephone call from Manhattan, Kan. “Human life is a gift from our Creator and should never be used as a means to an end. We will not sanction the creation of life only to destroy it.”

During his presidency, Mr. Bush has signed into law a bill banning partial-birth abortions. He also named Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. to the Supreme Court and nominated Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to succeed retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Judge Alito is expected to be confirmed this week.

Yesterday, pro-life advocates said they hope that someday the high court will reverse its landmark ruling on abortion.

“I’m more optimistic now than ever that we have a chance,” said Patti Parr, 45, of Dallas and a member of the pro-life advocacy group Silent No More Awareness.

Miss Parr said she became a pro-life advocate 10 years ago, after she got an abortion. She said she was full of shame for years after her abortion.

“I really shut down my mind; I buried it [and] lived emotionally numb for all those years,” she said. “If I had known the truth when I walked into the abortion clinic, if I had been fully informed, I would not have made that choice.”

College student Bradley Baker said the pro-life movement is a personal one for him. He said his family talked his mother out of getting an abortion when she was pregnant with him and his brother.

“Abortion hurts men just as much as it does women. Women carry the child just as the men bring them in,” said the 21-year-old student from Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina. “I think that is beginning to weigh on the male soul today.”

During the march, many protesters held signs that connected the pro-life message to the protection of elderly and disabled people like Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged woman who was thrust into the center of a national right-to-die debate last year. She died in March after a feeding tube that sustained her for years was removed.

Rain and cold weather did not deter the children, teens and college students who attended the march with parents and classmates. Many said they were from Catholic schools, some of which were as far away as Missouri. They packed the Mall and held signs with messages that read “Defend Life” and “It’s a Womb, Not a Tomb.”

Earlier in the day, more than 22,000 adults and children packed the MCI Center for the Rally for Life and Youth Mass. The MCI Center reached its capacity, so organizers had to turn away some people.

Sister Magdalene Teresa of the New York City-based Sisters of Life parish that works with young pregnant women contemplating abortion said it was great to see so many youths getting involved.

“All these young people, they’re leaders and they’re standing up for the beauty of life,” she said.

Members of Congress — including Republican Reps. Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey, Mike Pence of Indiana and Melissa A. Hart of Pennsylvania — attended the rally, at which they encouraged young people opposed to abortion to run for public office.

Police said the rally and the march were peaceful, and that no arrests were made.

Police said they saw few pro-choice demonstrators yesterday. Pro-choice demonstrators held a candlelight vigil Sunday in front of the Supreme Court, urging the Senate to reject Judge Alito’s nomination to the high court.

Event organizers and police declined to give official crowd estimates, but did say that the turnout appeared similar to that in the past, when organizers estimated attendance at about 100,000.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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