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35th March for Life Marks New Challenges, New Hopes

Katherine Britton | Crosswalk.com News & Culture Editor | Thursday, January 22, 2009

35th March for Life Marks New Challenges, New Hopes

January 22, 2009 

Tens of thousands marched down Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C. Thursday, marking the 36th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision with another peaceful protest.

The annual March for Life drew an estimated 200,000 pro-lifers to D.C. last year, according to the event’s organizers. Their numbers have grown every year since 1974, when the first March for Life organizers determined not to let the anniversary of legalized abortion be forgotten.

An estimated 50 million – 50,000,000 – babies have been aborted since the infamous Supreme Court decision in 1973.

This year brought a more somber context to the March than in past years, as pro-life groups lost their ally in the White House on Tuesday. Former President Bush used to phone-in to the rallies held before the march, offering words of encouragement and support.

The political winds have changed with the inauguration of President Barack Obama, who was invited to speak at the rally but did not accept by phone or otherwise.

In contrast to his predecessor, the new president has promised to back the sweeping Freedom of Choice Act, which “would nullify every pro-life law from parental notification laws to bans on federal funding of abortion," said Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, according to the Christian Post.

FOCA would also override pro-life gains from the Bush administration, such as the Born Alive Act, which protects infants who survive an abortion, and the partial-birth abortion ban.

But despite losses at the polls in 2008, where pro-life measures failed in every state in which they were proposed, pro-lifers have reason to be encouraged.

The number of pregnancy resource centers has continued to rise in recent years, helping women to seek pro-life alternatives to abortion. Networks such as Care Net and Crisis Pregnancy Center continue to grow.

Heartbeat International, one of the nation’s oldest groups, has started and supported almost 1,100 centers, maternity homes and adoption agencies throughout the United States and other countries, 410 of which have ultrasound equipment to let women see their unborn children. Heartbeat estimates that these kinds of centers save an estimated 2,000 babies each week.

“Members of Congress need to hear from the women we serve. I am grateful they have such positive things to say about pregnancy center help,” said Heartbeat President Peggy Hartshorn on the association’s Web site.

“Children are America's greatest natural resource, and our elected officials need to preserve the bond between mother and child,” she said. “Our families and the future of our country are strengthened by the life-saving work of pregnancy centers." Noonan plans to introduce congressional members to women who decided against abortion because of Heartbeat this week through Heartbeat’s “Babies Go to Congress” event. The women will also introduce their children as a testimony to the help that can be found at pregnancy centers.

The combined legislative efforts and personal interaction with women facing tough choices has helped kick the rate of abortions to its lowest level since 1973, when Roe v. Wade effectively legalized abortion and overrode most state laws against it. Still, the numbers are staggering – an estimated 1.2 million women aborted a child in 2005, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

“I do not believe the pro-life movement has failed overall, in the sense that what we have been doing is wrong, or that what we have been aiming for is hopeless,” said Maria McFadden Maffucci, editor of the Human Life Review, said in a statement.

Nonetheless, as those thousands united for life marched down the streets of D.C., it seems like a new era has begun in the pro-life movement. This effort includes congressional members, but also enthusiastic college students, pregnancy center volunteers, and post-abortive women willing to share their regret. With the political tide against them, this 200,000 member crowd is finding new ways to communicate their message, through high-profile videos put out by CatholicVote.org and continued interpersonal ministry.