WASHINGTON, D.C., January 25, 2013, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Huddled under winter coats and hats and scarves, hundreds of thousands of pro-life activists gathered on the Mall in Washington D.C. this morning to send a clear message to politicians in the Capitol, and the whole country: 40 years is too long, abortion must end! But despite the frigid January temperatures, the crowd, made up largely of teens and young adults, was boisterous, with many groups chanting pro-life slogans and singing hymns as they walked.
This year's March marked the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, since which an estimated 55 million babies have been killed by abortion in America.
While accurate estimates of the number of attendees at the march are hard to come by, organizers had said in the days leading up to the event that all signs pointed to a record-breaking crowd. Hotels in the D.C area sold out far in advance of when they normally do, and organizers installed two jumbotrons just to ensure that all marchers could get a glimpse of what was happening on the stage.
Last year's march was estimated at around 400,000 participants, likely putting this year's at the half million mark, or even beyond. The popularity of the event could be seen on social media, with the March for Life trending on Twitter for a time in the early afternoon, and Facebook exploding with photos and status updates from attendees.
Before opening the march rally with an opening prayer, Cardinal Sean O'Malley announced to cheers that Pope Benedict had just tweeted his support for the marchers. "I join all those marching for life from afar, and pray that political leaders will protect the unborn and promote a culture of life," the pontiff tweeted from his @Pontifex account.
And while the chances of a national pro-life political victory seem as bleak as the weather on the overcast winter day, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul and the other activist and political leaders who addressed the crowd were certain they are on the right side of history.
“One day, we will be here and triumph, because love and truth always triumph,” said former Pennsylvania senator Santorum, who made a strong showing for the Republican presidential nomination last year.
Santorum spoke alongside his wife, Karen, and four of their children – but his speech revolved around his absent daughter Bella, who was born with Trisomy-18. “The response to this little girl and the struggles she was going through and who she was...was just amazing to us, and affirmed to us the goodness of the people in this country,” he said.
“We were encouraged to abort, because she would be saddled with disabilities and it would be better for her – but we all know death is never better,” he said, “What it's about is it would be easier for us.” “Bella is better for us, and we are better because of Bella.”
He asked anyone faced with the prospect of special needs children to “give them a chance. Welcome them in to your home.”
After leaving the campaign trail, Santorum founded the advocacy group Patriot Voices, which carried an enormous banner in today's march.
“This country is in search of truth, and they're not finding much of it in Washington, D.C.,” he said.
Those who love the unborn are instead making the world a better place through their own initiative. “Everyday [they] go out and open up their arms...and reach out their hands in love for little children,” Santorum observed.
The highest ranking public servant to address the crowd – Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY – had some philosophical questions about how our policies affect the soul of our country.
“Can a nation long endure that does not respect the sanctity of life? Can a nation conceived in liberty carry its head high if its denies protection the youngest and most vulnerable of its citizens?” he asked.
“I believe great nations and great civilizations spring from a people who have a moral compass. Our nation is adrift, adrift in a wilderness where right and wrong have become subservient to the hedonism of the moment,” he stated.
Polls show the vast majority of abortions occur – not for rape, incest, or maternal health – but out of personal convenience.
“I believe our country is in need of a revival,” Senator Paul said. “I believe our country is in need of a spiritual cleansing.”
The senator, like his father, credits his medical career with influencing his pro-life worldview, remembering days when he held one-pound babies in the palm of his hand.
“I defy [pro-abortion ideologues] to come to the neonatal nursery with me and look at these tiny little miracles and say, 'We're not going to protect that,'” he said.
Four other members of Congress addressed the crowd, a significantly lower number than in years past.
Rep. Diane Black, R-TN, promised to reintroduce H.R. 217, the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, which would bar U.S. family planning dollars from financing any organization that performs abortions. Former Congressman Mike Pence, who was elected governor of Indiana in November, encouraged her to take up the charge.
House Speaker John Boehner addressed the gathering by video, promising he was busy at work “putting together a bipartisan pro-life majority and getting to work. In accordance with the will of the people, we will again work to pass the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, formally codifying the Hyde Amendment.”
The March featured a bipartisan moment, as Congressman Dan Lipinski, an Illinois Democrat, spoke to the crowd in a recorded message.
“We mourn the 40th anniversary of a talking away of a most basic and essential right to our most vulnerable sisters and brothers,” he said. “There are legislative battles to be fought, and I will continue to fight them as a pro-life Democrat, because life should not be a partisan issue.”
Lipinski was the only Illinois Democrat to vote against ObamaCare in March 2010.
Democrats for Life of America had a breakfast Friday morning before the march, as well.
However, the March's close proximity to Barack Obama's second inauguration drew sometimes heated remarks on the part of speakers – and marchers.
The chairman of the House Pro-life Caucus, Chris Smith, R-NJ, gave a stirring speech that commemroated the “horrific legacy” of Roe v. Wade 40 years and 55 million abortions later – “a death toll that equates with the entire population of England.”
His speech directly challenged President Obama.
“Know this,” he said, addressing the president, “the pro-life movement is comprised of noble, caring, smart and selfless people. It is an extraordinarily powerful, non-violent, faith-filled human rights struggle that is growing in public support, intensity, commitment and hope.”
“And know this Mr. President: The pro-life movement is not only on the side of compassion, justice, and inclusion; we are on the right side of responsible science and of history.”