January 24, 1995 in Nation/World

Thousands March In Protest Of Abortion

James Risen Los Angeles Times

Against a backdrop of rising violence and inflamed passions, thousands of antiabortion demonstrators marched from the White House to the Supreme Court on Monday to mark the 22nd anniversary of the court ruling legalizing abortion, voicing new enthusiasm for their cause thanks to the conservative sweep in November’s elections.

Thousands of abortion protesters, many carrying red roses or pictures of babies, rallied near the Washington Monument and listened to newly elected Republican members of Congress who pledged to oppose the abortion-rights policies of President Clinton, whom several termed “the abortion president.”

“Rejoice, rejoice - my mom was not pro-choice,” many demonstrators shouted as they walked along downtown Washington streets. Police said that the march was generally peaceful, with only 39 arrests in a crowd officially estimated at 45,000 by the National Park Service. March organizers claimed a crowd of 100,000.

Some mainstream anti-abortion groups, including the National Right to Life Committee, openly denounced the wave of anti-abortion violence that has claimed the lives of five people and left seven others wounded in the last two years.

Still, at least one militant anti-abortion organization used the march to announce it is launching a campaign of harassment against 12 abortion doctors around the nation, prompting a strong reaction from Attorney General Janet Reno.

In a press conference, Reno said that the Justice Department has contacted the doctors on the list, which was issued by a Portland-based militant group, American Coalition for Life Activists. She added that the department has “taken steps to address issues of security” for those doctors.

Members of the coalition were arrested Monday outside the headquarters building of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for blocking one of the doors to demonstrate against fetal tissue research.

Monday’s events were dominated by the anti-abortion movement; abortion-rights advocates held most of their commemorative events Sunday, the actual anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade ruling which legalized abortion nationwide.

Some conceded violence has hurt the anti-abortion movement. “It mixes the message,” said the Rev. Tom Pettie, Fresh Meadows, N.Y. “This is a cause for life.”

But others said the shootings are secondary to what they see as the mass murder of “pre-born” children in the 22 years since the Roe vs. Wade ruling.

“We want the killing to stop,” said Jeanie Hollar, 38, of Hickory, N.C. “People need to be educated about abortion. If more people knew about abortion, they’d be against it, too.”

Organizers of the march rejected suggestions that they cancel the demonstration to help cool emotions and prevent violence at clinics.

That request came Friday in a letter from Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email