Foes of Abortion March, Take Hope in GOP’s Political Gains
Against a backdrop of rising violence and inflamed passions, thousands of anti-abortion protesters marched from the White House to the Supreme Court on Monday to mark the 22nd anniversary of the high court ruling making abortion legal, voicing a new enthusiasm for their cause in the wake of the conservative sweep of last November’s elections.
The protesters, many carrying red roses or pictures of babies, rallied near the Washington Monument and listened to newly elected Republican members of Congress who pledged to oppose the abortion-rights policies of President Clinton, whom several termed “the abortion President.”
“Rejoice, rejoice--my mom was not pro-choice,” many demonstrators shouted as they walked along downtown Washington streets on a cloudy, chilly afternoon.
Police said the march generally was peaceful, with 39 arrested in a crowd estimated at 45,000 by the National Park Service. March organizers claimed a crowd of 100,000.
Some mainstream anti-abortion groups, including the National Right to Life Committee, openly denounced the wave of anti-abortion violence that has claimed the lives of five people and left seven others wounded in the last two years.
At least one militant anti-abortion organization, however, used the anniversary to announce that it was launching a new campaign of harassment against 12 abortion doctors around the nation, prompting a strong reaction from Atty. Gen. Janet Reno.
In a press conference, Reno said the Justice Department has contacted all of the available doctors on the list, which was issued by American Coalition for Life Activists, a militant group based in Portland, Ore. She added that Justice has “taken steps to address issues of security” for those doctors.
Members of the coalition were arrested Monday outside the headquarters building of the Department of Health and Human Services when they blocked a door to demonstrate against fetal tissue research.
Monday’s events were dominated by the anti-abortion movement. Abortion-rights advocates staged most of their commemorative events Sunday, the anniversary of the court’s Roe vs. Wade ruling.
Some protesters conceded that clinic violence has hurt their movement.
“It mixes the message,” said the Rev. Tom Pettie of Fresh Meadows, N.Y. “This is a cause for life.”
Others said that the shootings are 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.”
Organizers of the march rejected suggestions that they cancel the demonstration to help cool emotions and prevent violence at clinics, however. That request came Friday in a letter from Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.