March for Life draws ardent protest against abortion

3:21 PM, Jan 25, 2013   |    comments
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)
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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.

Protesters-- drawn by social media and church youth groups -- flocked to the annual March for Life despite sub-freezing temperatures and snow in the forecast.

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.

Anina 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 perfectly healthy."

Jackson chimed in, "It's pretty cool that my mom didn't give up. It's cool that I am alive."

Anina 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.

However, 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 issue.

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

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