.- Thousands upon thousands of Americans – young, old, lay, and religious – packed the streets of Washington, D.C. today, as they took part in the 34th annual March for Life. Pro-life protesters worked their way down Pennsylvania Avenue, past the U.S. Capitol building, to the steps of the Supreme Court where, in 1973, the Court decided that women should have a “right” to abort their children.
Participants from around the country had gathered in Washington over a chilly weekend, to pray, protest, and gain information about the pro-life movement. The weekend’s events, which include an enormous Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and a youth rally which overflowed the city’s Verizon Center, culminated in a rally and march through the heart of American government.
Several politicians, clergymen, and pro-life activists took the stage during the nearly two hour pro-life rally this morning.
March for Life committee chairman Nellie Gray reminded the participants that the theme of this year’s march is “Thou Shall Protect,” declaring that all are called to protect the, “the equal right to life of each innocent human in existence since fertilization …no exception, no compromise.”
For the seventh year in a row, President George W. Bush also spoke at the event. The president joined the crowd by phone from Camp David reminding them that, as the country moves forward, “we've all got to remember that a true culture of life cannot be built by changing laws alone. We've all got to work hard to change hearts."
“We will find areas where we can agree and, at the same time, work to persuade more of our fellow citizens to join this great cause," Bush said.
Prior to touching on several of the victories his administration has achieved on life issues, including bringing an end to the practice of partial birth abortion and vetoing a bill that would have opened the door to widespread embryonic stem cell research, the president recalled the reasons for his firm stance on life issues. "It is important for all Americans to remember that our Declaration of Independence states that every person has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," Bush said. "We believe every human life has value, and we pray for the day when every child is welcome in life and protected into law."
Bush concluded by encouraging the marchers to "go forth with confidence that a cause rooted in human dignity and appealing to the best instincts of our citizens cannot fail."
In addition to the current president, a few 2008 presidential hopefuls were on hand at the rally and march. Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, who announced his candidacy on Saturday, spoke of the daughter he and his wife had adopted from China and challenged those present to fight for life with the same heart as his daughter’s Chinese mother did in preserving her from abortion.
Another avidly pro-life legislator, Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), took his opportunity on the podium to point out the lack of respect for human life found in the current House of Representatives.
Smith said he smiled as newly elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called her grand children to the rostrum and spoke of helping children. “And then I thought again of the forgotten girls and boys-at last count more than 49 million of them-brutally killed by what she and others euphemistically call ‘choice,’” Smith added.
“No one is more precious than our children,” the New Jersey Representative said, “but it is equally valid and true that unborn children have inherent worth, value and dignity. They are children too.”
Smith told the crowd to pray for an end to abortion because, he said, “I believe, like you, that it is only by prayer and fasting coupled with hard work that America's dark night of child slaughter will come to an end."