Washington (January 22, 1999) Tens of thousands of pro-life supportrs from around the nation convened to march for the right to life and express their views and lobby lawmakers and policymakers. The event commenced at 9 a.m. with the delivering of live red roses by participating students to all members of Congress, President Clinton and Vice President Gore.
Attendees then spent the morning migrating to the Ellipse on the National Mall, where a pro-life rally was held at noon, followed by the march around the White House and up to the Capitol and the Supreme Court.
Organizers said that since the first event on Jan. 22, 1974, the march has been a "rallying point" to advocate that "the unalienable right to life vested in each human being at fertilization shall be protected by our Constitution." They stress that their ultimate goal is "personhood legislation," which would affirm the inception of legal rights at fertilization.
Pro-life Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-OK), speaking at the rally, said he and the other supporters were there to make a "strong statement," adding, "We want to change our nation's laws. We want to protect all citizens, both born and unborn." Quoting Winston Churchill, he vowed that the pro-life movement would "never give in."
Pro-life Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) asked, "Why does America, the greatest, the most humane nation on earth, tolerate the destruction of its unborn?"
Pro-life Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) said, "Those who fashion themselves as advocates of children and pro-women while promoting or even acquiescing to abortion are either hypocrites or are living in an unhealthy state of denial."
While an actual count of the marchers was not taken, National Park Police said that a permit was issued for 50,000. March for Life President Nellie Gray said the turnout was closer to 100,000, calling the march "the best we have ever had." The crowd represented widely divergent ethnic and geographic groups. Local groups came in on buses from as far away as Iowa, North Dakota, Kentucky and Florida. A high school student from Vermont, who came in on one of three busses, said that this year was her third at the march, while a couple from Washington state said they had been coming for 17 years.
A priest from Ireland who had flown over alone said this was his first march in Washington. Although officials from Missouri Right To Life expressed concern last week that the pope's visit to St. Louis this Tuesday might diminish their turnout in Washington, member Sara Clark said she came with a group of 260, and that about 800 to 1,000 supporters traveled from the St. Louis area.
The most obvious characteristic of the crowd, however, was the variance in age -- almost one-half of the entire group were students or children. Diana Pryce, 16, of Baltimore, has attended the march now for 5 years. She said she keeps coming back because "there's no better cause to devote your time to."
Twenty-seven years ago, a pregnant Jeanne Medora attended a pro-life rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to stop the procedure from becoming legal. Yesterday, Medora was among thousands of people who attended the March.
"I'm still fighting," said Medora, 50. "I never thought back then that it would ever be made legal. There's still so much feeling against it. I think people are becoming less and less silent when the realization hits them that abortion is killing."
More than 6,000 Philadelphia-area residents attended the annual March for Life to the Capitol and Supreme Court. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia filled 100 buses.
Rosarine Grisafi, 63 and also from Pennsylvania, said she has been going to the march for the last five years. "You get such a good feeling when you are marching and you turn around and see all these people behind you," Grisafi said. "It gives us hope. It really is just a nice day in Washington."
Ann Cornwall said she hasn't missed a march in 20 years. "We'd like to see things turn around," Cornwall said. "I'm a mother of eight children. I think abortion is an evil thing. It's not just a glob of tissue."
Walt Kelly said, "I'm here because I've got four kids that I wouldn't give up for anything."
The march brought out the usual array of creative pro-life signs. Here's a sampling:
"Pro-Life. Here Until No More Children Die, No More Women Cry."
"The Natural Choice Is Life"
"Stop Abortion Now"
"Feminists for Life of America"
"Adoption -- The Loving Option."
"Stop Partial-Birth Abortion"
"If It's Not a Baby, You're Not Pregnant"
"Democrats for Life"