Jeanne Monahan, a 40-year-old former HHS staffer who just a few weeks ago took over as head of March for Life, the biggest anti-abortion event in the country, speaks at a youth rally as part of the March for Life events at the Hyatt hotel. 40 years after Roe, the march and the movement are at crossroads as Americans have complex views on abortion (Photo by ASTRID RIECKEN For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
By Natalie DiBlasio, USA TODAY
Thousands of young adults thronged the National Mall on Friday to
protest abortion and cheer speakers who called for overturning the
40-year-old landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.
drawn by social media and church youth groups -- flocked to the annual
March for Life despite sub-freezing temperatures and snow in the
Pope Benedict sent them his encouragement by way his
personal Twitter account, @pontifex: "I join all those marching for life
from afar, and pray that political leaders will protect the unborn and
promote a culture of life," he posted early Friday morning.
Lund, 14, Monica Dewey, 15, and Monica's brother Jackson, 12, came
from West Chester, N.Y., with a group from St. Anne's Church -- 118
people all clad in neon orange hats and green scarves to keep sight of
each other in the giant crowd. Both girls spoke of how their families
faced abortion decisions.
Monica, one of 10 children recalled, "My
younger brother was very sick in the womb and the doctors told my mom
to abort the baby but she chose not to. He is here today and he is
Jackson chimed in, "It's pretty cool that my mom didn't give up. It's cool that I am alive."
had a similar story: "I had a little sister who was going to be aborted
because she was premature. But now she is 7 and she is perfect. This
march gave my mom so much support."
Jeanne Monahan, president of
the March for Life Education & Defense Fund, and organizer of the
event was thrilled that sub-freezing weather and a thin layer of snow
did not deter the marchers.
Lauren Benzing, 18, of Solon, Iowa,
who came with 350 others on 13 buses from the Catholic Diocese of
Dubuque, was too young to vote last November but, she vows, "As soon as I
can (vote) I will support pro life. But with the march I feel like I
can still make a difference."
Kathleen Cranford, 61, of Slidell,
Louisiana came to the march today with her husband Clay who is holding a
green "Defend life" sign.
"I've wanted to attend all my life and
now I am here - it's a dream come true," Cranford says. "I think all
Americans should be here defending life." As disturbed as Americans are
by the killings in Newtown, she said, abortion has killed millons more. "
Where is the outrage? Where is the insistence on change?" she asked.
Americans remain divided on abortion. According to a recent USA
TODAY/Gallup Poll. Significantly more Americans - 53% to 29% - want the
decision kept in place rather than overturned. Another 18% have no
opinion, the highest level of uncertainty Gallup has recorded on the
According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, 37% of Americans do not know that Roe v. Wade
dealt with the issue of abortion. Among the age group targeted by the
March for Life, the number is higher - 57% of adults under age 30 don't
know what the case is about.
Jeanne Ameye, 73, of Washington
Crossing, Penn., knws very well what the case meant. "I have two
adopted mature, grown children and I am so grateful their mother didn't
abort them -- she could have."
Ameye, who is Catholic sees trouble
in a culture where, "We don't hurt animals but we have no problem
killing babies. I resent my tax money going towed abortion. It is
against my religion," she says.
Contributing: Cathy Lynn Grossman; Bob Smietana, The Tennessean