WASHINGTON – Catherine Rayder was a little girl when her mother,Linda DuBois,began taking her and her sisters to the March for Life in the early 1980s.
This year,Rayder's own daughters carried “Brownback for president” signs,and Rayder carried her 5-month-old son on her hip during the anti-abortion rally Monday on the National Mall. Rayder,a 30-year-old attorney from Reston,Va.,was joined by her mother and her niece – three generations of women “protecting life,” grandmother DuBois said.
“I love the example this gives to my girls,” Rayder said. “I hope they'll want to take on the issue when they're older.”
The issue is a personal one for Rayder,whose 4-year-old twin daughters,Jenna and Hannah,were born at 27 weeks – a point during her pregnancy when abortion was still legal.
The twins don't really understand the abortion rights issue,Rayder said,though “they know they're protecting babies.”
But their cousin,9-year-old Maddy DuBois,is “very aware” of the issue,her grandmother said. Maddie's mother was single when she became pregnant,and she was encouraged by some doctors to have an abortion,Linda DuBois said.
“We'd been involved with this cause for 15 or 16 years before it came right at our door,” she said. “The decision was a no-brainer.”
DuBois and her family were in the company of thousands of anti-abortion marchers from across the country. Monday's demonstration,organized by March for Life,marked the 34th anniversary of Roe v. Wade,the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
Anti-abortion activists hope the Supreme Court will overturn the decision when it rules on Gonzales v. Carhart,which calls into question a 2003 ban on partial-birth abortions,later this session.
During the march,protesters carried signs with pictures of babies and slogans such as “Roe v. Wade: Indefensible” and “Face it: Abortion Kills.” Some marchers chanted “Hey,hey,ho,ho,Roe v. Wade has got to go!” Christian rock music blared from loudspeakers,and a small group of singers performed “Amazing Grace” and other gospel songs to an eager audience. Volunteers handed out “Brownback for president” bumper stickers near subway stops.
The rally came on the heels of Sen. Sam Brownback's Saturday announcement he would seek the Republican nomination for president. The Kansas senator has called abortion a modern-day “holocaust” and has opposed stem cell research.
Lucy Fitzpatrick,a 17-year-old junior at Bishop LeBlond High School in St. Joseph,Mo.,carried a Brownback sign. She said she hopes an anti-abortion candidate will be elected president who will choose conservative judges and oppose embryonic stem cell research.
Fitzpatrick paid $100 of her babysitting earnings to join her school and diocese on the 1,100-mile road trip. More than 200 people traveled in her group,all wearing matching hats.
“There are other alternatives,and you don't have to destroy lives to save lives,” she said.
Religious anti-abortion groups and National Organization for Women abortion rights supporters rallied side-by-side on the Supreme Court steps late in the day,each cause attracting about 100 demonstrators.
NOW supporters held “Keep abortion safe & legal” signs and chanted,”Pro-life: It's a lie. They don't care if women die.” They spoke about health risks women faced before Roe v. Wade.
“Women would get butchered by back-alley abortionists,” said Adelide M. Miller,70,a retired poverty law lawyer who lives in Washington. “Women were found bleeding in motel rooms. We can't go back to that.”
Miller carried handmade posters that said,”Please don't kill my mother” and “Women have a right to life.” A Roman Catholic,Miller said that abortion is “problematic,” but she won't judge people for their decisions.
“If women are going to get abortions,let them get safe ones,” she said. “If there are other options,women will choose them. Why do we need to have laws against them?”
Anti-abortion activists read testimonials of women who regretted having abortions and women who were grateful they chose not to have abortions.
The two groups engaged in a chanting match when some anti-abortion demonstrators surrounded the NOW group and began singing,but the demonstration remained civil. There was no violence,and no arrests were made,according to a Metropolitan Police Department spokesman.
Lisa King,a 35-year-old financial analyst from Washington who supports abortion rights,debated with anti-abortion demonstrators gathered at the Supreme Court. She said discussions between the opposing groups could be productive.
“There are those who want to insult and yell,” she said. “But there are also people who want to engage in intelligent conversation,and that's good.”