WASHINGTON – The inauguration of a president who supports abortion rights fired up the annual March for Life Thursday, with activists warning of new, more liberal legislation and urging President Barack Obama to view abortion as a civil-rights issue akin to slavery.
Signs read: “Yes we can – eliminate abortion.” One speaker took the microphone and called for anti-abortion “community organizers,” a job the president held in Chicago. Another taunted Obama with references to one of his heroes.
Looking east at the thousands of marchers gathered from Fourth to Seventh streets on the Mall, Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., said Obama needed to be reminded “that the reason we built that monument to president Abraham Lincoln is because he saw the humanity in a slave that the Supreme Court said was not human.” Nothing could make Obama less like Lincoln than “forgetting that the unborn are also little children of God,” he added.
Police provided no estimate for the size of the crowd gathered on the 36th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade. But anti-abortion leaders said they sensed a new intensity because of Obama and the new, more heavily Democratic Congress.
Deirdre McQuade, spokeswoman for Pro-Life Activities at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said turnout at the annual Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Northeast on Wednesday night filled the basilica’s 16,000-person capacity and spill into two overflow buildings. A morning youth concert and Mass Thursday at Verizon Center also filled up – there were 20,000-plus seats – and crowds were sent to nearby churches.
The mood on the Mall Thursday was upbeat, with throngs of teenagers chatting, chasing one another and laughing.
McQuade noted that the number of yearly abortions has been down since the 1990s and that a new movement is trying to further reduce abortions through education, better health care and counseling for pregnant women and new parents.