Anti-abortion March for Life draws thousands in Washington, D.C.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Yesterday, thousands of anti-abortion protesters rallied in Washington, D.C. Unlike the half a million who walked to the White House waving signs last Saturday, these came to support one of the policies espoused by the United States president Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence: making abortion harder to come by.

This event, called the March for Life, has taken place every year since 1973, the year abortion was ruled legal in the U.S. by the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision. “Pro-life” is the umbrella term of choice of the U.S. political movement that favors rendering abortion illegal and less accessible and “pro-choice” is the corresponding term for the movement that favors keeping it legal and accessible.

Donald Trump has recently reversed Barack Obama’s repeal of a global funding ban, which prohibits the use of U.S. funds for any organization that provides or counsels for abortions abroad.

Trump specifically asked Vice President Mike Pence to attend the march. “Life is winning in America!” he told the crowd, noting that he serves under “a president who I proudly say stands for the right to life.” A Pew Research Institute poll taken this year shows that 69% of Americans support the Roe v Wade decision, up from 60% in 1992.

One reason why many opponents of abortion say the procedure should be illegal is the belief, often religious, that life begins at conception. Correspondingly, the event was accompanied by religious music and speeches, including one by Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan. One reporter for the BBC noted a large number of young women in the crowd, especially college students. Signs included “Women DO Regret Abortion” and “I am the Pro-Life Generation,” many held up by young women. Others showed pictures of fetuses, quoted Bible verses, or called for the defunding of Planned Parenthood by name. There is already a law in place, the Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of federal funds for abortions, though this money can go to organizations that also perform abortions so long as the funds are kept separate.

As governor of Indiana, Mike Pence established some of the country’s strictest abortion laws. Years ago, Donald Trump said publicly that he was “very pro-choice” but has since changed his stance. Trump commented, as is his custom, via Tweet, “To all of you marching — you have my full support!”

The crowds in Washington, D.C. yesterday numbered in the tens of thousands, in contrast to the roughly 500,000 in last week’s Women’s March, though some organizations did attend both events. March for Life President Jeanne Mancini told National Public Radio, “I think we’re a pretty different march — we’re a one-issue march.”

The abortion rate in the United States hit a record low in 2013, but the pro- and anti-abortion rights movements are at odds about why. Both sides credit increased availability of contraceptives, but anti-abortion organizations tend to give more credit to state-level laws that have made it harder to keep abortion clinics open and limit abortions to only the early stages of pregnancy. As NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue pointed out, the anti-abortion movement now has the opportunity to work at the federal level; “We’re living at the apex of a 40-year, state-by-state effort by the anti-choice people […] We have to be prepared for the fact that they’ve got all the pieces in place to do real damage.”

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