Anti-Abortion Protesters March in Washington
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Thousands of anti-abortion protesters marched from the White House to the Supreme Court on Monday, chanting prayers, shouting slogans and waving white crosses in an annual protest against the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
``Rejoice, rejoice _ my mom was not pro-choice,″ many shouted as they walked along downtown Washington streets on a cloudy, chilly afternoon.
``Abortion is not and never will be respectable,″ march organizer Nellie Gray, president of March for Life Inc., said at an hourlong rally in a grassy park just south of the White House. ``No one has the right to murder with impunity.″
After an hour’s walk to the Supreme Court, hundreds of people knelt on the court’s steps to pray as police in riot gear looked on. A black-and-white poster of an aborted fetus was propped up nearby.
U.S. Park Police estimated the crowd at 45,000; Gray put the number at 100,000. Last year, about 35,000 people braved an ice storm to march against abortion.
Some demonstrators blocked traffic and later about 39 protesters were arrested after blocking one of the doors of the Department of Health and Human Services building to demonstrate against fetal tissue research.
Activists on both sides of the issue were holding rallies, prayer vigils and demonstrations to mark the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling. The actual anniversary was Sunday.
Some at Monday’s march denounced recent shootings at abortion clinics. Four people were killed and six wounded at shootings at abortion clinics last year in the United States and Canada.
Clinic violence hurts the anti-abortion movement, said the Rev. Tom Pettie from St. Francis Prep School in Fresh Meadows, N.Y. ``It mixes the message,″ he said. ``This is a cause for life.″
Others said the shootings were secondary to what they see as the mass murder of ``pre-born″ children in the 22 years since Roe vs. Wade.
``We want the killing to stop,″ said Jeanie Hollar, 38, of Hickory, N.C.. ``People need to be educated about abortion. If more people knew about abortion, they’d be against it, too.″
Gray said she rejected a suggestion that she cancel the demonstration to help cool emotions and prevent violence at clinics. The request came Friday in a letter from Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, Gray said.
``Now you know we weren’t going to cancel this,″ Gray told the crowd. ``Abortion is murder by the laws of God, by the laws of man and by common sense.″
In a written statement released later, Michelman accused the protesters of creating an atmosphere that could provoke more shootings.
``Such incendiary rhetoric _ equating abortion with `murder’ and the Holocaust _ make these perilous times for women and abortion providers,″ she said. Michelman also criticized protesters for releasing the names of doctors performing abortions and the addresses of clinics.
Anti-abortion members of Congress assured the crowd that the new Republican majorities in the House and the Senate would be more attentive to them.
``I’m a new member of Congress, a member of a new majority who is there to serve the people _ born and unborn _ in the Congress of the United States,″ said Rep. Bob Barr, a freshman Republican from Georgia.
``When I was pregnant with my two children, I didn’t call it a fetus. I called it a baby,″ said Linda Smith, R-Wash., also serving her first term.
Meanwhile, Rep. Pat Schroeder, D-Colo. and Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., introduced a bill that would prohibit the government from censoring the information women can receive about reproductive health options. Some Republicans are trying to restore the ``gag rule,″ lifted by President Clinton, that bars federally funded clinics from discussing abortion options with patients.
In Boston, two people were arrested for disrupting an annual prayer service by Massachusetts Citizens For Life. At least 600 people attended the service. Two blocks away, more than 2,000 people attended a rally organized by the National Organization for Women.
In New York, Cardinal John O’Connor said at a Sunday Mass that Roe vs. Wade ``introduced the ethic of death into our society.″
In Spokane, Wash., about 1,500 abortion opponents marched downtown for a rally, while nine abortions rights groups held a candlelight rally in another part of the city.
Norma McCorvey, the Jane Roe in Roe vs. Wade, held a news conference in Los Angeles to decry recent violence.
Before Roe vs. Wade, ``We lost millions of women to back-alley abortionists who either left them to die from bleeding to death, or injured them to the point of leaving them childless forever,″ said McCorvey, an abortion clinic worker in Dallas.