YOUNG PEOPLE SWELL CROWD AT WASHINGTON MARCH FOR LIFE
By The Rev. Charles H. Nalls
Special to The Christian Challenge (Washington, DC)
January 23, 2004
THERE WAS a decidedly young face to the tens of thousands of pro-life
demonstrators filling the streets of downtown Washington yesterday.
From a throng estimated at between 100,000-200,000 marchers, a
deafening roar went up as a speaker asked all under the age of 25 to make
Americans and others from around the world including a visible and vocal
delegation from France, attentively listened to speeches from Christian and Jewish
leaders, secular and religious, demanding an end to abortion, assisted
suicide, and abortion-based research.
The weather, which had been threatening bitter cold and snow, lifted to warm
those who had gathered to march, pray and sing on this 31st
anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. Various legislative victories, a
commitment to the pro-life cause by the current administration, and court
challenges to Roe by the original plaintiffs, buoyed and encouraged the
Again this year, both leaders of the March and the marchers
themselves repeatedly remarked that the number of abortions is dropping, the
numbers of people in opposition to abortion increasing, and the numbers of
young people and women marching for life staggering. Indeed, the overwhelming
number of demonstrators appeared to be female.
With the White House as a backdrop, the speeches lasted for several hours--a
clear favorite being President Bush, who spoke to the crowd by telephone from
New Mexico. While acknowledging the progress at building a culture of life
in America over the last three years, he noted that "there is still more to
do." The President was emphatic that "all life is sacred and worthy of
protection." He left no doubt that the administration would fight to uphold
the ban on partial-birth abortion signed into law on Nov 5, and that it is
determined to halt human cloning.
A perennial favorite was an orthodox rabbi who offered a fiery sermon
against those in politics who do not favor life. The rabbi remarked that
orthodox Judaism respected life from the point of conception, and declared
excommunicate those who do not do so. The orthodox contingent then stirred
the crowd with the blowing of the shofar to call for justice for the
Sharing the dais were many notable religious and civic leaders, including a
number of Roman Catholic bishops and archbishops, as well as Eastern
Orthodox bishops and prelates. Politicians also were in abundance,
unabashedly articulating the pro-life position. They were joined by a
variety of other supporters, including representatives of the Family Research
Council and Concerned Women of America.
At 2 p.m., nearly an hour late, the marchers stepped off onto
Constitution Avenue in the shadow of the Washington Monument and almost
immediately came to a halt. The crowd had grown so large it took nearly half
hour to get it moving along the route.
Marchers had gathered under a variety of banners, and this reporter noticed a
greater number of non-Roman Catholic groups such as large contingents of
"Southern Baptists for Life" and "Methodists for Life", as well as greater numbers
under Eastern Orthodox banners and those of independent Evangelical churches.
These joined literally thousands of Roman Catholic groups and parishes.
Continuing Anglicans also were present in the crowd, this commentator again
marching with representatives of parishes of the Anglican Province of Christ the
Along the route, the throng from virtually every denomination and state of the
union sang hymns, prayed, recited the rosary and chanted various litanies.
"Salve Regina" was chanted along with "He's Got the Whole World in His
Hand." Tired toddlers were carried in the arms of parents who walked
alongside hearty octogenarians. All were united in the common purpose of calling
for a return to the sanctity of life.
Again this year, a strong police presence was evident everywhere, although,
unlike other demonstrations in this city, marchers stopped to thank the
officers and hand them informational literature, and priests offered
blessings to law enforcement personnel. From the windows of office
buildings, workers waived in support.
At the end of the route, pro-life demonstrators stopped before the nation's
highest court. Some dropped to their knees and prayed, priests offered
blessings and cast salt or holy water on the stairs of the Supreme Court,
and some could do nothing but weep.Then there were the inevitable pictures,
final farewells and the beginning of many long trips home.
There was a resolve in the crowd as it dispersed--a resolve to engage in
their communities in the hope that there will be no 32nd anniversary for the
Roe v. Wade decision. It was a resolve best expressed on the shirt of a
teen-aged marcher that said simply: "You will not silence me. You will not mock my
God. You will stop killing my generation."
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