Abortion foes march, emboldened by elections
Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 24, 2005 at 11:34 p.m.
WASHINGTON - Abortion protesters marched though chilly Washington on Monday emboldened by Republican election gains they said gave new momentum to their 32-year fight to overturn Roe v. Wade. President Bush told them by phone, "This movement will not fail."
Protest leaders said stronger Republican majorities in both houses of Congress and Bush's re-election reflect the public's support for more restrictions on abortion. Chief Justice William Rehnquist's battle with thyroid cancer injected a sense of urgency into this year's demonstrations, nearly guaranteeing one retirement on the high court during Bush's second term.
For his part, Bush played cheerleader in chief at a rally before the march, telling tens of thousands of anti-abortion protesters on the Ellipse that their approach to the debate this year would "change hearts and minds" of those still favoring abortion rights.
"This is the path of the culture of life that we seek for our country," Bush said by phone from Camp David, Md.
Every anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, prompts demonstrations by opponents and supporters of abortion rights. Activists on both sides of the issue marched in demonstrations across the country Saturday, the actual anniversary of the Jan. 22 decision.
As they marched past bleachers left over from Bush's inauguration, many abortion-rights opponents said they drew new confidence from the nation's decision to re-elect Bush, who opposes abortion in most cases, and to broaden the Republican majority in Congress.
David O'Steen, executive director of the National Right to Life Committee, said the Nov. 2 election shows the Supreme Court is out of step with the electorate on the issue. He said he was cautiously optimistic that the confluence of election results and Rehnquist's likely retirement, though Rehnquist is an abortion-rights foe, would move the high court in abortion opponents' favor.
Separately on Monday, the Supreme Court struck on a more modest level on the side of abortion-rights supporters.
First, the justices let stand a lower-court ruling that said South Carolina's license plates, which bear the slogan "Choose Life," violate the First Amendment because abortion-rights supporters weren't given a similar forum to express their beliefs.
The court also refused on Monday to keep a severely brain-damaged woman, Terri Schiavo, hooked to a feeding tube - all but ending a long-running right-to-die battle pitting her husband against her parents.
At the Ellipse, with anti-abortion marchers, Schiavo's father, Robert Schindler, called the decision "judicial homicide."
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