OLYMPIA -- Opponents of abortion filled the Capitol steps Tuesday as legislators urged them to fight against federal health care mandates and proposals that would set new rules for their crisis pregnancy clinics.
A crowd estimated at more than 4,000 by the Washington State Patrol marched from the nearby gardens under banners representing the Orthodox Church, Catholic parishes, the Knights of Columbus or the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Demonstrators carried crosses draped with rosaries or adorned with roses, professionally printed octagonal red signs that said "Stop Abortion Now" or hand-lettered messages such as "Which are more protected, Babies or Whales?"
Rep. Matt Shea, R-Greenacres, asked for their help to pass HB 1688, which would require every minor considering an abortion to have an ultrasound and another, HB 2669, that would nullify the effects of any national health care legislation in Washington.
"If we get life issues wrong, we get every other issue wrong," Shea said.
Sen. Val Stevens, R-Arlington, urged them to lobby against a bill that she said would require so-called Crisis Pregnancy Clinics to include abortion as an option when talking to patients. That's a violation of both freedome of speech and freedom of religion, Stevens said.
SB 6452 requires what it calls "limited service pregnancy centers" to tell patients that they do not offer abortion or comprehensive birth control services, to give only "medically and scientifically accurate" information and to tell a patient if a pregnancy test is an over-the-counter test which she can administer herself.
Lt. Mark Arras of the WSP estimated the crowd at more than 4,000, and said it was the largest protest at the Capitol since last spring, when the Tea Party had about 5,000 attend a tax protest.
About a dozen abortion-rights protesters stood across the parking area on the steps to the state Supreme Court building, sometimes banging a drum, other times chanting "My Body, My Choice" or "Keep it Safe and Legal." But they were easily drowned out by the anti-abortion crowd spelling out "L-I-F-E, Life!" or "We are, we are Pro-Life" to the cadence of Queen's "We Will Rock You." About the only time they could be heard for a prolonged period was when the abortion protesters were hushed for the opening prayer.