WASHINGTON – Thousands of anti-abortion demonstrators gathered near the Capitol Monday to support overturning Roe v. Wade and the nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court.
The court decision that legalized abortion had its 33rd anniversary Sunday.
Nellie Gray,president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund,shouted to the crowd,“Roe versus Wade is not the American way. … In America today,abortion is a commercial,money-making industry.”
She urged marchers to vote for candidates who have records showing they are anti-abortion.
“Pro-life trumps politics,” Gray said. “We shall support only those candidates who have demonstrated they are indeed pro-life.”
The march came at what could be a crucial point in U.S. history. Alito is expected to be recommended Tuesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee as the next Supreme Court justice. He would replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor,who was the swing vote for the abortion case.
While Alito has said he respects abortion precedent,he was vague during his confirmation hearings on what decision he would make if an abortion case came before the court.
About 30 abortion rights activists protested the march on the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court.
“Truly I'm very frightened that we could have a complete reversal of everything we've been fighting for,” said Usher Shrair,a student at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. “Alito is one of the scariest things to happen to this country.”
Shrair is part of World Can't Wait,a group that opposes the Bush administration. The government should not be allowed to dictate what a woman does to her own body,she said.
She and other abortion rights activists wore smocks covered with red paint and coat hangers.
“We might be only a fraction of the people here,but we represent millions who can't afford to come,” Shrair said. “Our clothing represents the women who will die as a result of back alley abortions if they're made illegal.”
Most of the time,the marchers and protesters were peaceful,with only a few minor confrontations. Many anti-abortion marchers brought their children,who also toted signs displaying slogans such as,“Smile,your mom chose life.”
Paul and Tracy Grubbs,of Lake Ridge,Va.,brought their four children,ages 11 years to 22 months. He is a program manager at an architectural firm,and she stays home to care for their children.
Paul Grubbs,44,said they brought their family to emphasize the “innocence of abortion victims.”
“Abortion should not be tolerated just like murder is not tolerated,” Grubbs said. “They're murdering the most innocent members of our society.”
Some marchers,including Paul Troiani,who works for the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform in Westerville,Ohio,an anti-abortion group,carried graphic signs depicting the abortion procedure.
“If people are offended by our pictures,then they should be offended by abortion,” Troiani said. “The truth isn't always sweet.”
Gray told a rally before the march that the slippery slope of abortion has led to the denial of rights for the aged and the handicapped. She was referring to the case of Terri Schiavo,the severely brain-damaged Florida woman who died last year after courts ruled her husband had the right to remove her feeding tube.
Schiavo's family joined Gray on stage to speak out against rationing medical care,euthanasia and medical killing.
Speakers were optimistic about the current political situation with Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court,and the crowd erupted when President Bush called from Kansas,where he had a speaking engagement.
“You believe,as I do,that every human life has value,that the strong have a duty to protect the weak,and that the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence apply to everyone,not just to those considered healthy or wanted or convenient,” Bush said.
Marchers had their own stories to share and reasons for being at the event. Deborah A. Lewis,a certified public accountant from St. Louis,spoke Sunday at the March for Life convention and marched on Monday
At age 1½,Lewis was adopted,she said. Five years ago,she found her birth mother and discovered she had nine siblings.
Lewis said she also found out she had been conceived through a rape,and her mother had decided not to have an abortion. Lewis said she and her adoptive mother are thankful to her biological mother for giving Lewis the chance for a better life.
Alito's nomination gives her hope that the court will overturn Roe,she said. The current separation of church and state is not what the forefathers intended.
“Our nation was founded under God,” she said.
Another marcher,Sister Mary Gabriel,31,works with the Sisters of Life at seven sites in New York and Connecticut to aid men and women through emotional and psychological problems they might have after an abortion. Many women have problems with alcohol or drug abuse post abortion,and the nuns try to help these women love themselves,she said.
“We take a fourth vow to protect and enhance the sacredness of life,” she said.