WASHINGTON – They came from across the country but the thousands who turned out for Friday’s 47th March for Life had the same goal – reversing Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that recognized a woman’s right to an abortion.
For marchers like Katie Forbes of Tempe, the “magnitude and the scale” of the national march are important “just for encouragement” of anti-abortion forces, who say they have seen the tide turning in their favor in recent years.
“To be able to just see that you’re not alone, there are other people who stand for the same things you stand for and that are in this with you,” said Forbes, who was at the rally with her infant son.
Much of the event was familiar – signs, songs, prayers and chants at a stage on the National Mall before a march down Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court for a rally. But this year’s march included a first, when President Donald Trump took the short drive from White House to address the crowd in person, the first president to do so.
Trump drew applause repeatedly during a 13-minute speech in which he touted his administration’s support for restricting the use of federal Title X health care funds, limiting funding of abortion services overseas and pledging to veto abortion-rights legislation.
Trump also touted his appointment of 187 federal judges including Supreme Court justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, conservatives who are expected to play pivotal roles in abortion cases before the court, including one from Louisiana set for argument March 4.
“They are coming after me because I am fighting for you and we are fighting for those who have no voice,” said Trump, sparking cheers of “four more years” as he battles impeachment in the Senate. “And we will win because we all know how to win.”
Critics called Trump’s appearance an “act of desperation” by a president facing impeachment.
“He takes refuge in his ability to whip up a radical anti-choice base, spewing falsehoods when he feels threatened,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement released Thursday by the abortion-rights group, which said 77% of Americans support legal abortion. “The majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade; a majority of Americans reject Trump’s extremism.”
But none of those Americans were in the crowd Friday. A cold, intermittent drizzle did not seem to deter the marchers, an orderly, upbeat throng of thousands who faced a noticeable paucity of counter-protesters Thursday as they made their way to the Supreme Court.
“There was originally five of us, until we all got crisscrossed, and now I am here all alone,” said Arizona Life Coalition Executive Director Garrett Riley with a laugh, as he headed up Capitol Hill toward the end of the march.
Riley held a sign that featured a panda bear saying “Save the Baby Humans.” It was one of a sea of signs that ranged from pictures of fetuses to quotes from the likes of Mother Teresa and President Ronald Reagan, from Trump 2020 signs to hand-drawn posters with characters like Baby Yoda.
Forbes said she was anti-abortion before she became unexpectedly pregnant last year. She met her fiance at an anti-abortion event and said her unplanned pregnancy, while shocking to her, was also a blessing.
She said she skipped the Arizona March for Life last week to attend the national march because she feels it is important to make her voice heard.
“The point is to show our leaders of this country and to show the country as a whole that we really are here and there are people that feel the way that we do,” Forbes said.
“I don’t want to be back here five years from now, 10 years from now,” she said Friday. “I would like to see a time where we don’t have to march for the unborn.”