The National Mall came alive with chants and marching from a parade of pro-life supporters in the 44th annual March for Life held Friday, Jan. 27.
Thousands attended the longstanding pro-life tradition just days after the 44th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, despite declining abortion rates across the country. Attendees marched from the Washington Monument to the steps of the Supreme Court.
The annual March for Life began in 1973 to protest the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion in the U.S. The landmark decision has been a source of a national debate that continues today about whether abortion should remain legal and to what extent, who should decide abortion’s legality and what role moral views should shape politics.
“It’s 40 years of murder,” said Pastor Donald Fozard of Mt. Zion Christian Church in Durham, North Carolina.
“Forty-fours years,” Pam Hunter, who attended the march with Fozard, corrected.
According to a report by the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization that focusses on sexual and reproductive health, abortion is at its lowest rate since Roe v. Wade.
“Abortion is a demonic operation. It amazes me that people who are in the world want to keep folks out of the world,” said Fozard, a pastor of nearly 40 years.
He said he hoped a Supreme Court justice with pro-life sentiments would be appointed to overturn the legislation he believes continues being used to exterminate African Americans.
An African-American woman is five times more likely to have an abortion than a white woman, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. Hispanic women are twice as likely.
A 2015 Associated Press exclusive reported a nationwide decline in overall abortions. A survey of 45 states’ abortion numbers reported to health departments showed a 12 percent decline in abortions from 2010-2014. The rate dropped in every state regardless of legislative restrictions on abortion.
Abortion rights advocates attribute the decline in abortions to expanded access to contraceptives and a drop in unintended pregnancies. Anti-abortion groups attribute the drop to a shift in societal attitudes as more women now choose to carry their pregnancies to term.
Some abortion rights advocates worry that access to abortion and other reproductive services will be restricted due to talk of cuts to organizations who provide those services.
“This administration will work with the Congress to end taxpayer funding of abortion and abortion providers, and we will devote those resources for health care services for women across American,” said Vice President Mike Pence who is the highest-ranking White House official to attend the protest in its history.
As one of his first executive orders, President Trump reinstated the Mexico City policy which blocks federal funding for international organizations that provide abortion counseling or referrals.
David Elizondo, a D.C. resident and pro-choice proponent, was swallowed by the crowd of pro-life advocates as he stood silently and alone wearing headphones and a “Keep Abortion Legal” sticker.
“I’m here to protest this terrible restrictive march,” Elizondo said. “They bus tons and tons of young people in, telling them you can get a free day off of school. They’ll bus in as many students as they can and I want to let these students know there’s another side to it.”
“Restricting access to abortion may force women to delay the procedure or carry unwanted pregnancies to term,” said Megan Donovan, Guttmacher Institute senior policy manager in a press release.
“Instead, we should focus on increasing access to the full range of contraceptive methods, as well as to abortion services. Empowering women to prevent unintended pregnancies and plan their families is both a human rights priority and smart public health policy,” she said.