Thousands of abortion foes set for march in D.C.

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Thousands rally in Olympia for anti-abortion ‘March for Life’

OLYMPIA - Thousands showed up to share an anti-abortion message with lawmakers Tuesday.

Holding roses and hoisting signs, more than 4,000 people gathered at the steps of the Capitol for the annual “March for Life” rally to protest abortion, especially House Bill 2148, the proposed Reproductive Parity Act, which would require health-insurance plans to include abortion coverage.

Noreen McEntee-Hobson, president of Washington State March for Life, led the event.

“This isn’t a women’s issue, this is a political issue,” McEntee-Hobson told the crowd. “Women are on both sides.”

Lawmakers, including Sens. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, and Pam Roach, R-Auburn, spoke at the rally in support of anti-abortion legislation.

Kimberly Reis, of Olympia, brought her two daughters to the rally and carried a sign that said she was proud to be a woman and grateful to have children. Her daughters had signs, too.

“I just don’t think babies shouldn’t live,” said 8-year-old Aubren, waving a sign that read, “Abortion stops a beating heart.”

Her sister, Maggie, 11, said children are a gift from God. “They need people speaking out for them because they can’t.”

Washington State Patrol troopers said there were no abortion-rights advocates at the event.

Abortion-rights activists will gather Wednesday to celebrate the 41st anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which made abortion legal across the U.S.

The NARAL Pro-Choice Washington lobby day is Feb. 3.

— The Seattle Times

WASHINGTON — Tens of thousands of abortion opponents will brave Washington temperatures in the teens Wednesday to dance, sing, pray and march up Capitol Hill for the 41st annual March for Life, which organizers in the past year have worked to modernize and make more inclusive, including focusing on promoting adoptions.

The March for Life draws mainly high school and college youth groups, many from Catholic schools, and buses from around the country had already poured out thousands who attended a Mass on Tuesday night at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Northeast Washington. Through the night, priests there heard confessions as people held a vigil in the Crypt Chapel of the huge basilica.

Masses were planned at churches large and small through the region Wednesday morning before marchers headed for the Mall, where a concert and rally are scheduled to run from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Seventh Street. Marchers, as they do each year, at 1 p.m. will head up Capitol Hill to the Supreme Court, where they hold a prayer vigil and are always met by a small handful of abortion rights supporters and inevitable debate and discussion.

The snow and frigid weather undoubtedly will affect the size of the march. A morning 5K run-walk was canceled, the pre-rally concert was scaled back and travel plans were affected. Among them were those of Christendom College, a small Catholic school in Front Royal, Va., that had canceled classes so the entire school could go to the District of Columbia. But their charter bus service was canceled Tuesday because of weather and road conditions.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley, one of the country's best-known church leaders -- he is also Boston's archbishop and an adviser to Pope Francis -- spoke at the Tuesday night Mass. And movement leaders noted that Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus had rejiggered the schedule of the party's winter meeting Wednesday morning to allow delegates to attend the march.

Some activists pointed to political advisers' suggestion after the 2012 elections that Republicans focus less on abortion. But Priebus' decision, activists said, showed that the party wasn't necessarily going to take that advice. Others said it was notable that the meeting was scheduled without awareness of the major anti-abortion event.

In fact, the event -- the world's largest antiabortion happening -- is changing, if slowly. For decades, it was run largely by one woman out of her home office in Virginia. But since Nellie Gray passed away in 2012, the March staff and its budget have doubled in size. It has waded into social media -- the common language of most participants -- and created the whywemarch hashtag in the past month.

March President Jeanne Monahan said this year's theme of adoption shows that activists are trying to reach out to a new generation who seem more open to the argument of abortion opponents if it's seen as less partisan and more empathetic to pregnant mothers. Statistics show public opinion on abortion access have not significantly changed.

Among the marchers will be Kathryn Brown, 20, who came with eight buses over two days from Benedictine College in Kansas. About 20 percent of the school was in Washington for the march and a morning Mass.

Brown said she visits an abortion clinic with 10 or 20 other young abortion opponents twice a month to speak with women going to the clinic. Brown has been active in the movement since high school and thinks she and her peers are different from earlier generations in their style -- they don't hold signs of aborted fetuses, for example.

"I think we've developed our techniques somewhat. They used to use harsher, more graphic signs. The focus of the pro-life movement has become a more loving, gentle approach," she said Tuesday night.

Abortion debates have become regular fodder, particularly in state-level elections, as the number of states enacting restrictions has risen. More state abortion restrictions were enacted in 2011-13 than in the entire previous decade.