Anti-abortion marchers hope Obama’s listening
On the same grounds where many gathered just two days earlier to witness President Obama’s inauguration, thousands of people joined the annual March for Life on the National Mall to protest the 36th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade and to voice their opposition to the new president’s policies on abortion.
Obama’s support for abortion rights convinced Jack Maas, 68, of Arlington, Va., that he needed to go to the rally, which ended with a march to the Supreme Court.
“He throws a challenge down to anyone that cares about the sanctity of life. It’s a slap across the face,” Maas said.
The march has taken place on Jan. 22 every year since 1974 to commemorate the court’s landmark 1973 abortion decision. The event has a history of support from politicians who oppose abortion rights, including Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
Obama, as one of his first acts as president, is expected to repeal the “global gag rule” that prevents federal money from going to international groups that counsel women on abortion and perform the procedure.
Standing amid the crowd, clutching a pair of “We choose life” signs, Johnny Alencherry, 50, of Hagerstown, Md., said he was skeptical that abortion-rights opponents would gain traction with the Obama administration.
“Unless he has a St. Paul-like conversion, we’re looking at very bad meals in the years to come,” Alencherry said, referring to the biblical figure’s conversion to Christianity.
Young people made up a large share of the crowd. Among them were 17-year-old Reyes Acosta and 15-year-old Justin DeJesus, who arrived with the New York-based religious organization Life Teen.
“It puts us as the youth in a hard place, because we want change in every aspect, including our pro-life movement,” Acosta said of Obama’s campaign buzzwords of hope and change.
“I think he’s sort of contradicting himself by saying he’s a religious person and, at the same time, being for basically killing people,” DeJesus said, referring to abortion.
Adam Becker, 23, a graduate of Ohio’s Franciscan University of Steubenville, said the president’s priorities were skewed.
“The difference between paying $2 for a gallon of gas versus $4 is insignificant to me compared to the value of life,” Becker said.
From a stage set up on the Mall by March for Life, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) addressed the crowd.
“We may have lost an election, but we have not lost the war,” Brownback said. “We will continue to fight for life, no matter how long it takes, no matter how many marches it takes.”
Obama, who was invited to speak at the rally, released a statement saying he was committed to a woman’s right to choose.
“While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue, no matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion, and support women and families in the choices they make,” the statement said.
“On the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we are reminded that this decision not only protects women’s health and reproductive freedom,” it said, “but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters.”