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Record March for Life Buoyed by Bush's Promise
"We share a great goal: to work toward a day when every child is welcomed in life and protected in law. We know this will not come easily, or all at once. But the goal leads us onward: to build a culture of life, affirming that every person, at every stage and season of life, is created equal in God's image."
March for Life organizer Nellie Gray said the turnout at the Jan. 22 event marked the biggest rally in the 27-year history of the march, even larger than 1998's showing of 200,000.
The march has been held annually since the first anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide on Jan. 22, 1973.
Gray said the reason to march is "to educate Washington officialdom — the White House, the Congress, the Supreme Court — that Roe v. Wade is not settled law and we shall indeed have it overturned."
Marching for the unborn just seemed like the natural thing to do for 16-year-old John Kosa.
"It's a spiritual thing," said Kosa, a first-time marcher who came with 50 members of St. Joseph's Church in Marblehead, Ohio. "We came to show support for the unborn babies — for those who don't have a voice."
And the high-school sophomore was optimistic about President Bush. "I think he's gonna do a good job," he said, "from what I've heard and seen."
Kristina Gillespie, 26, of Boise, Idaho, and her husband Clark, traveled across the country "to show our support for the policies that we agree on with Bush and to oppose the ones where we aren't in so much agreement."
The inauguration of a self-proclaimed pro-life president only increased the need to march, said Nancy Gerber, mother of seven adopted children. "I think it's important to show the public officials that there are pro-life people out there and that they need to support pro-life legislation," said the Indianapolis woman.Gerber's friend, Lena Peoni, agreed that President Bush would be a major improvement while acknowledging the huge task before the pro-life movement.
"He will not veto, like Clinton did, the ban on partial-birth abortions," Peoni told the Register. "Now Roe v. Wade — that's gonna take a long time to get rid of."
It will be difficult because those who support abortion are equally determined to keep it legal. Polly Stamatopoulos, of Washington, D.C., stood with a small group of abortion activists outside the U.S. Supreme Court awaiting the pro-life marchers.
"I come out every year on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade," she said, "to celebrate the ruling and to also let people know that there are people who don't like that the government is chipping away at women's reproductive rights."
Gray said she was distressed by recent comments on Roe v. Wade made by John Ashcroft, President Bush's designated attorney general.
"He considered it 'settled law.' It's not settled law," said Gray. "That's very disturbing that he said that."
Gray also expressed concerned over Laura Bush's comments on NBC's "Today" show Jan. 19, in which the first lady said she didn't favor overturning the 1973 decision legalizing abortion.
"It's equally disturbing that Mrs. Bush said that she wanted to reduce abortions and not overturn Roe v. Wade," said Gray.
About 20 members of the youth pro-life group, Survivors, demonstrated outside of the Bush-Cheney transition office the day before George W. Bush became the 43rd U.S. president, asking him to repeal five pro-abortion executive orders signed eight years ago by President Clinton.
"I'd like a president who claims to be pro-life to be pro-life," said Danielle White, 17, of Whittier, Calif.
The first step in demonstrating that, she said, is "by rescinding the five executive orders. They really hurt the pro-life movement," said White, the organization's spokeswoman.
On the 20th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and on only his third day in office, President Clinton overturned President George H. Bush's ban on the importation of the abortion pill, RU-486, and ended the prohibition of abortions on military bases.
OTHER FEDERAL FUNDS
In addition, Clinton lifted bans on federal subsidies to organizations that promote abortion globally, on Title X funding of abortion groups domestically and on funding of research that uses fetal tissue or stem cells from aborted children.
Congress later reinstated the bans on military base abortions and funding of abortion groups overseas by attaching them to appropriations bill that became law.
White said that Clinton acted fast to prove his support for abortion and she hopes that President Bush will likewise quickly establish a firm defense of life.
"President Clinton did that to make his statement that he is pro-choice; we're asking Bush to make a statement that he's pro-life," she added.
Abortion advocates are openly concerned that Bush intends to do exactly that. Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood, told CNN Jan. 22 that she believes abortion could become illegal during Bush's current term. "It absolutely could happen in the next four years," she said. "It could happen sooner than that."
In fact, the Bush administration is wasting little time in demonstrating its pro-life orientation.
Its first executive order will likely ban subsidizing those groups that promulgate abortion across the globe. Bush said he would do so, "soon."
"That's an important act," press secretary Ari Fleischer told The Washington Post. "The president does not support using federal funds to promote abortion."
The ban is known as the Mexico City policy because President Reagan first announced the order during a speech at a United Nations population conference held there in 1984. The policy remained in place under the elder Bush's administration.
Before President George W. Bush issues an executive order on RU-486, he will consult with the Department on Health and Human Services, said White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card.
"We're going to take a look at all of the regulations. We're going to take a look at all of the executive orders," Card told CBS's "Face the Nation."
At a Jan. 19 Senate hearing on his confirmation, Bush's choice to head the health and human services department, Tommy Thompson, questioned the safety of the abortion pill and hinted strongly that he would initiate a review. The Food and Drug Administration approved RU-486, or mifepristone, in September.
March of Life organizer Gray welcomed the impending move to reinstate the Mexico City policy, and said she was hopeful that a ban on RU-486 would follow. "I understand that they have that under review," she said.
But, she added, until abortion is completely illegal, "The fight continues."
BUSH'S STATEMENT TO MARCH FOR LIFE PARTICIPANTS
Good afternoon, friends and fellow citizens. Two days ago, Americans gathered on the Washington Mall to celebrate our Nation's ideals. Today, you are gathered to remind our country that one of those ideals is the infinite value of every life.
I deeply appreciate your message and your work. You see the weak and defenseless, and you try to help them. You see the hardship of many young mothers and their unborn children, and you care for them both. In so many ways, you make our society more compassionate and welcoming.
We share a great goal: to work toward a day when every child is welcomed in life and protected in law. We know this will not come easily, or all at once. But the goal leads us onward: to build a culture of life, affirming that every person, at every stage and season of life, is created equal in God's image.
The promises of our Declaration of Independence are not just for the strong, the independent, or the healthy. They are for everyone — including unborn children. We are a society with enough compassion and wealth and love to care for both mothers and their children, to seek the promise and potential in every human life.
I believe that we are making progress toward that goal. I trust in the good hearts of Americans. I trust in the unfolding promise of our country — an expanding circle of inclusion and protection. And I trust in the civility and good sense of our citizens — a willingness to engage our differences in a spirit of tolerance and good will.
All of you marching today have never tired in a good cause. Thank you for your conviction, your idealism, and your courage. May God bless you all.
Joshua Mercer. "Record March for Life Bouyed by Bush's Promise." National Catholic Register. (January 21-27, 2001).
Reprinted by permission of the National Catholic Register. To subscribe to the National Catholic Register call 1-800-421-3230.
Joshua Mercer is a correspondent with the National Catholic Register
Copyright © 2001 National Catholic Register