January 28, 2013 — On Friday, antiabortion-rights politicians joined thousands of activists at the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., to protest the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, the AP/Washington Post reports.
Although police did not provide official numbers, the event's organizers estimated that hundreds of thousands of people participated (Tucker, AP/Washington Post, 1/26). A spokesperson for the march called the turnout "record-breaking."
Many speakers at the event focused on the role of young people in the movement. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, called the rally a "turning point" for abortion-rights opponents, adding, "There's a new generation rising" (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 1/25).
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), speaking in a video that was shown at the march, called on antiabortion activists to make the procedure "a relic of the past."
Jeanne Monahan, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, said, "We're winning in the court of public opinion, we're winning the states with legislation" (Parker, New York Times, 1/25). She added, "The new normal is to be pro-life."
Meanwhile, Pope Benedict XVI during the march tweeted, "I join all those marching for life from afar, and pray that political leaders will protect the unborn and promote a culture of life" (Simpson, Reuters, 1/25).
The most recent polls show that while many people support some restrictions on abortion, the majority of Americans do not want Roe overturned. A Gallup poll released last week found that 52% of respondents said abortion should be legal only in certain cases, while 28% said it should be legal in all cases and 18% said it should be illegal in all cases.
Meanwhile, a recent Pew poll found that Americans' views on Roe have changed little over the past two decades, the Times reports. Sixty-three percent of respondents said they oppose completely overturning Roe, while 29% said they want it overturned (New York Times, 1/25).
Antiabortion Lawmakers Call for Change of Tone
Some Republican lawmakers suggested on Friday that GOP candidates need to rethink their messages in the wake of controversial comments about abortion and rape during the 2012 election, Politico reports.
After speaking at an antiabortion conference prior to the March for Life, Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) told Politico that abortion-rights opponents "need to do a better job in making sure that our message is clear, that we want to help women to be whole and healthy."
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) -- who also spoke at the conference -- told Politico, "In terms of the party's messaging, we should keep our central focus on the child."
Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus on Friday echoed those sentiments at the RNC winter meeting in North Carolina, stating, "We can stand by our timeless principles -- and articulate them in ways that are modern ... relevant to our time and relatable to the majority of voters" (Glueck, Politico, 1/25).
Catholics Call for 'Pro-Life' Stance on Gun Control
Meanwhile, a group of 60 Catholic priests, nuns, scholars and former Vatican ambassadors this week sent a letter urging abortion-rights opponents to support "common-sense reforms to address the epidemic of gun violence in our nation," the New York Times reports.
They wrote that guns have killed and injured millions of U.S. residents and argued that truly defending life means reducing gun violence. The letter specifically called on Catholic lawmakers Boehner, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) to challenge gun lobbyists.
Among the two-thirds of white evangelical Protestants who identify as "pro-life," 64% oppose stricter gun control laws, according to a new Public Religion Research Institute poll. By contrast, among the 40% of Catholics who identify as "pro-life," 61% support stricter regulations on guns.
When asked about the letter, March for Life organizer Monahan said, "I definitely have nothing to say about gun control," adding, "That's so out of the parameter of what we're about" (Goodstein, New York Times, 1/25).
Senators Introduce Several Bills
In related news, several senators last week introduced women's health-related legislation in conjunction with the march.
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) on Thursday introduced a measure (S 137) that would prohibit abortion providers from receiving federal family planning funds and another bill (S 138) that would ban abortions based on the sex of the fetus (Kasperowicz, "Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 1/25).
In addition, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) on Thursday proposed legislation (S 143) that would prohibit states and local governments from withholding funding from health care providers or facilities that refuse to provide abortions or refer patients to abortion providers. A second bill by Casey (S 142) would permanently codify the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or when a woman's life is in jeopardy.
Casey also introduced a bill (S 144) that would boost funding for the Pregnancy Assistance Fund by $25 million. The fund, which was created under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), provides grants to high schools, colleges, and states to assist pregnant and parenting teens, college students, and pregnant women who are victims of intimate partner violence. According to The Hill's "Floor Action Blog," the fund is intended to prevent women from obtaining abortions for financial reasons (Cox, "Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 1/25).
Meanwhile, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) on Friday introduced a bill (S 154) that aims to ban abortion coverage in multistate plans available through the health insurance exchanges that will be established under the ACA (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 1/25).