WASHINGTON -- Abortion protesters marched though chilly Washington yesterday emboldened by Republican election gains they said gave new momentum to their 32-year fight to overturn Roe v. Wade. President Bush told them by phone, "This movement will not fail."
Protest leaders said stronger Republican majorities in both houses of Congress and Bush's reelection reflect the public's support for more restrictions on abortion. Chief Justice William Rehnquist's battle with thyroid cancer injected a sense of urgency into this year's demonstrations, because it increased the likelihood of one retirement on the high court during Bush's second term.
For his part, Bush buoyed antiabortion demonstrators at a rally before the march, telling tens of thousands of them on the Ellipse that their approach to the debate this year would "change hearts and minds" of those still favoring abortion rights.
"This is the path of the culture of life that we seek for our country," Bush said by phone from Camp David, Md.
Every anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, prompts demonstrations by opponents and supporters of abortion rights. Activists on both sides of the issue marched in demonstrations across the country on Saturday, the anniversary of the Jan. 22 decision.
As they marched past bleachers left over from Bush's inauguration, many abortion-rights opponents said they drew new confidence from the nation's decision to reelect the president, who opposes abortion in most cases, and to broaden the Republican majority in Congress.
David O'Steen, executive director of the National Right to Life Committee, said the Nov. 2 election showed the Supreme Court is out of step with the electorate on the issue. He said he was cautiously optimistic that the confluence of election results and Rehnquist's expected retirement, though Rehnquist is an abortion-rights foe, would move the high court to oppose abortion rights.