National

2017 March for Life Converges on D.C.

Thousands of pro-life demonstrators converged Friday on Capitol Hill for the annual March for Life, charging that women’s right for safe and legal abortions shouldn’t come at the expense of the unborn.

On the 44th anniversary of the landmark Roe V. Wade case, the marchers expressed new hopes that the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion could finally be overturned with newly elected President Trump’s imminent appointment to fill a vacancy on the high court.

Vice President Mike Pence, speaking during a pre-march rally near the Washington Monument, said that after four decades of living under Roe vs. Wade, the words of the Declaration of Independence could soon be true for the unborn.

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness … Today, life is winning again in America,” Pence said.

But during the march, some women held signs stating, “I Had An Abortion and I Regret It,” and this struck at the heart of the pro-choice advocates who stood in front of the Supreme Court building as the marchers passed by.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, issued a statement in conjunction with the anniversary of the decision:

“Forty-four years ago today, the United States Supreme Court affirmed that the right to abortion is protected by the constitution and ushered in a new era of safety and freedom for women in our reproductive health care. As this new president takes office, arm in arm with a Congress overwhelmingly dedicated to stripping women of our federal rights, our future is more tenuous than it has been since that day forty four years ago.”

The marchers were mostly youthful, white and Catholic. A sprinkling of African-Americans and immigrants took part in the event and a few slowed down long enough to talk about why they participated in the event.

The Rev Ralph J. Chittiams Sr., associate pastor of Forestville New Redeemer Baptist Church in Forestville, Md., said that he attended the event not as a church representative, but because “babies’ lives matter, abortion is a sin and scourge on the earth and … all lives matter.”

Orlando Clark, 82, a member of the Ark of Safety Christian Center, decided to stand in front of the Supreme Court building instead of walking 16 blocks along the march’s route from the monument grounds to Capitol Hill.

“I am very concerned about the significance of abortion. You are taking away a human life,” Clark said.

The crowd was overwhelmingly Catholic, with a large portion coming from the University of Notre Dame as part of a bus caravan from South Bend, Indiana. It was clear that Pence, the state’s former governor and longtime anti-abortion activist, had mobilized his base.

While there was some overlap with last week’s inauguration crowd — a few pro-Trump signs and red hats were visible — many of the Trump supporters in attendance Friday have been coming to the March For Life for years.

Sister Damian, a native of Nigeria and member of a Catholic order of nuns from Elizabeth, New Jersey, had her own reasons for participating.

“I want to support what I believe in: To give life,” Damian said. “Life is sacred and I want to give testimony to what I believe in.”

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Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the Greater Washington Area. Hamil has chronicled the Million Man March, the Clinton White House, the September 11 attack, the sniper attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the campaign of President Barack Obama and many other people and events. Hamil is currently a multi-platform reporter on the Local Desk of the Washington Post where he writes a range of stories, shoots photos and produces videos for the print and online editions of the Post. In addition, he is often called upon to report on crime, natural disasters and other breaking issues. In 2006 Harris was part of a team of reporters that published the series “Being a Black Man.” He was also the reporter on the video project that accompanied the series that won two Emmy Awards, the Casey Medal and the Peabody Award. Hamil has lectured at Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, the American University, the University of Maryland and the University of the District of Columbia. He also lectures several times a year to interns during their semester in the District as part of their matriculation at the Consortium of Christian Colleges and Universities.

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