Several dozen GW students joined the tens of thousands of anti-abortion activists who rallied on the National Mall Monday on the day after the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.
The 33rd Annual March for Life, sponsored by the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, centered on the slogan “Roe v. Wade Violates the American Way.” The famous and controversial Supreme Court case, decided Jan. 22, 1973, found that most laws against abortion violate a constitutional right to privacy.
The rally, which took place for most of the afternoon and evening Monday, attracted the attention of anti-abortion advocates and prominent politicians. President Bush, who was traveling in Kansas, also called in to speak to the crowd on the Mall.
“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 to a cheering crowd, adding that he was proud to sign the partial-birth abortion bill in 2003 and that “there’s more work to be done.”
Nearly a dozen Republicans congressmen who oppose abortion made pleas to the audience to participate in grass roots activism, including Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ.), who is one of the most outspoken politicians on the issue.
“I can’t help but offer an invitation, a challenge, a plea for you to absolutely redouble your prayers, your fasting and work on behalf of those at risk,” Smith said.
Many speakers said that the addition of conservative judges to the Supreme Court bench could help reverse the tide and increase anti-abortion activism.
GW students from organizations including Colonials for Life, College Republicans and the Newman Catholic Student Center attended the event.
GW senior Suanne Edmiston, founder of Colonials for Life, said she attended the rally and march with a group of 30 students from her organization. She said that this was the third year she participated in the March for Life, and that the event means different things to different people.
“The march to me, and the rally, is one of hope (and) happiness,” she said. “Some people are more mournful, some people treat it more as a reflection – and a somber one at that – on the lives that have been lost. I think people treat it differently.”
Edmiston, who said she has been involved in the anti-abortion movement since she was 14 years old, said anti-abortion progress is tough to achieve.
“Say Roe vs. Wade is overturned tomorrow; we’re (still) not done,” she said. “This movement has to have the strength of a million oxen behind it.”
GW junior Gary Livacari, political affairs director for the College Republicans, said he and other College Republican members attended the rally not only because of their beliefs on the issue but also to support the president.
Those who attended Monday’s rally carried signs that said “I Regret My Abortion” and “My Abortion Hurt Me.” Others said they attended the rally and march because of their religious beliefs. Sally Ferrel of Portsmouth, Ohio, said she traveled by bus to attend her first national march and to show off her sign that read, “Pray the rosary in reparation.”
Ferrel said that her sign was, “to make up for all of the people who already had abortions.”
Foreign visitors also helped flood the Mall on Monday. Bruno Schroeder, 27, along with other members of the Youth for Life organization, were visiting from Rio de Janeiro. Schroeder said he attended the rally last year and wanted to come again to observe the progress the United States. has had in the anti-abortion movement.
Abortion rights counter protesters were sparsely distributed throughout the event. Members of GW’s Voices for Choices, an abortion rights organization, said that they sponsored a t-shirt-making party instead of going the rally.
“Voices for Choices, the (GW) student branch of Planned Parenthood, views itself as a pro-active organization, not reactive,” the executive board of Voices for Choices wrote in a statement. “We, as an organization, did not participate in any counter-protests surrounding the anti-choice movement’s ‘March for Life.'”
According to the D.C. Metropolitan Police Public Information Office, both the rally and the march were peaceful and no arrests were made.