WASHINGTON — Thousands of anti-abortion demonstrators marched through Washington to the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to protest the landmark decision that legalized abortion.
The annual event took on added significance for many in the crowd since it coincided with this week's 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that created a constitutional right to abortion in some circumstances. The demonstrators, carrying signs with messages such as Defend Life and Defund Planned Parenthood, shouted chants including Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go. They packed the National Mall and surrounding streets for the March for Life.
I just felt this 40th year marked a huge anniversary for the law, said one demonstrator, Pam Tino, 52, of Easton, Mass., who also participated several years ago. Forty is a very important year in the Bible as well, in terms of years in the desert. And I just felt like maybe this year that was going to be something miraculous that might happen. We might see something going forward with the cause.
With the re-election of President Barack Obama, she added, we just have our walking papers. Now we just feel like we have to keep the battle up.
The large turnout reflected the ongoing relevance of the abortion debate four decades after the decision.
It remains a divisive issue with no dramatic shift in viewpoint on either side; a new Pew Research Center poll finds 63 percent of U.S. adults opposed to overturning Roe, compared to 60 percent in 1992. Earlier this week, abortion opponents marked the anniversary with workshops, prayers and calls for more limits on abortion rights. And even as Obama this week reaffirmed his commitment to reproductive freedom, state legislatures continue to consider varied restrictions on a woman's ability to receive an abortion.
Among the speakers at Friday's rally was Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator and staunch abortion opponent who last year unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination.
He said the anti-abortion cause was made up of people who every day advocate for their position outside abortion clinics and at crisis pregnancy centers.
This movement is not a bunch of moralizers standing on their mountaintop preaching what is right, Santorum said.