By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman and Steve Jalsevac
WASHINGTON, D.C., January 23, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Hundreds of thousands of pro-life demonstrators marched through the U.S. capital Thursday, protesting the deaths of almost 50 million unborn children by surgical abortion since the practice was legalized nationwide in 1973.
The March for Life, held on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that struck down state laws nationwide, attracted large groups from around the nation, including Catholic dioceses and parishes, organizations of priests and laity, and various pro-family and pro-life organizations. Well over half of the participants were under thirty years old, including a very high percentage of adolescents.
March for Life chief organizer Nellie Gray told LifeSiteNews the crowd definitely appeared larger than normal this year. She said there were "definitely over 200,000" participants and noted that one television station reported that there were 300,000 participants in the march. Gray also said the march normally takes about one and a half hours to pass one point, but this year it took over two and a half hours, indicating a large increase in numbers.
Asked what she attributed the massive attendance Gray responded, "I don’t think there is any doubt that it was in reaction to the election and as they started to see the issues in the news they felt compelled to come out."
Senators, congressmen, pro-life leaders and members of various religious traditions addressed the crowd before the march began. The religious leaders included Rabbi Yehuda Levin, Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church of America, Cardinals Justin Rigali and Sean O’Malley and numerous Catholic bishops.
Luke Robinson, an African-American pastor from Maryland, stirred the crowd with a passionate speech calling on Obama to end the "slaughter of the innocent preborn," especially blacks, who suffer 34% of abortions in comparison to their 12% representation in the population (see LifeSiteNews coverage at http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/jan/09012311.html).
Although the March’s speakers made respectful comments about President Barack Obama, whose administration began two days earlier, they called upon him to abandon his extreme pro-abortion beliefs and policies, and to embrace the right to life for all.
Despite the election of Obama, who most pro-life leaders at the march emphasized to LifeSiteNews is the most pro-abortion president in American history, many participants expressed hope for the future, speculating that the new president might repent of his past and convert. Others expressed deep concern about the consequences if Obama implements the policies he has espoused during his brief political career, both in the United States and in foreign countries.
Frank Padilla, founder of the international pro-family organization Couples for Christ, spoke to LifeSiteNews about the "global attempt to destroy the family, destroy marriage, and destroy life". In the Philippines, where the group began, pro-life groups are fighting a "reproductive health" bill that would fund and promote the distribution of contraceptives, including those that cause abortion.
He added that there is "very great concern" about the election of Obama, given the influence of the United States on foreign countries. However, he added, that he believes "at the same time we see that it is a blessing, because people are now much more aware, and we know that we need to educate our people, because we know there are so many Catholics who really don’t know what the issues are about."
"So, that should be the blessing, and I think that this will be the start of greater pro-life activism, and work, not just in our country but in many parts of the world."
Fr. Aquinas Glibo, a Dominican priest, was present with numerous young seminarians, under the banner, "Dominicans for Life."
"I think the pro-life movement in the United States has becoming a rallying point for a lot of young religious," said Fr. Aquinas, who also stated that the Dominican Order is seeing a resurgence of vocations and a stronger spirit of orthodoxy. He also said that he preaches against abortion in his parish in New York City.
Participants held signs with pro-life slogans, and many sang. Some held photos of aborted babies. The Genocide Awareness Project, an organization that shows large photos of aborted children in displays at universities and on roadsides, was present as well, with a chilling display showing the victims of abortion. It also had one of its large Truth trucks along the march route.