WASHINGTON -- Tens of thousands of pro-life Americans marched in the U.S. capital on the anniversary of the nationwide legalization of abortion with fresh encouragement for their cause.
In fact, Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land said he is more convinced than ever that the Supreme Court's legalization of abortion will be reversed in his lifetime.
Meanwhile, President Obama reaffirmed on the same day, Jan. 22, his support for a "fundamental constitutional right to choose whether to have an abortion."
The annual March for Life and the president's statement came on the 37th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. In Roe and Doe v. Bolton, a companion opinion issued on the same day, the Supreme Court announced rulings that struck down all state bans on abortion and had the effect of legalizing abortion throughout pregnancy for virtually all reasons.
The march, which again was dominated by the presence of students, came only three days after Scott Brown stunningly won a special Senate election in Massachusetts to become the 41st Republican and end the Democrats' filibuster-proof majority in the chamber. In the aftermath, support for an Obama-backed health care reform bill that includes federal funding of abortion appeared in serious jeopardy.
Roe's anniversary also followed a year in which pro-life public opinion increased. A Gallup Poll in May showed 51 percent of adults said they are pro-life, while 42 percent identified themselves as pro-choice. It was the first time a majority of Americans have called themselves pro-life since Gallup began asking the question in 1995. Other surveys also showed the increase in pro-life opinion in the United States.
On the eve of the march, a new poll showed 56 percent of Americans believe abortion is "morally wrong." The breakdown in the survey, performed by Marist College of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., for the Knights of Columbus, of those who believe the practice is "morally wrong" was: 58 percent among 18- to 29-year-olds; 60 percent among 30- to 44-year-olds; 51 percent among 45- to 64-year-olds, and more than 60 percent among those 65 and older.
Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the "pro-life movement is ascending; it's not descending."
Four days prior to the march, Land spoke at a demonstration outside a nearly completed Planned Parenthood center in Houston that pro-lifers say will be the largest abortion clinic in the Western Hemisphere.
"Many of the marchers were young people -- people born since Roe," Land told Baptist Press. "Many carried signs that said, 'We survived Roe. Roe won't survive us.' And I think that's true.
"And let's remember that only half of that 37-and-younger crowd are eligible yet to vote," he said. "Every year a new group of disproportionately pro-life voters enters the electorate.
"I am more convinced than I have ever been that I will live to see Roe v. Wade dumped on the ash heap of history, along with Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson."
The Supreme Court ruled in 1857 that Dred Scott, an African American slave, was not a U.S. citizen and had no rights. In the 1896 Plessy opinion, the high court upheld racial segregation.
A frequent commentator on abortion in public policy also was positive about the status of the pro-life movement.
"[T]he events of 2009 have clearly demonstrated the [pro-life] movement's resiliency and heft," wrote Michael New, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Alabama, in National Review Online Jan. 22. "Indeed, it is safe to say that pro-lifers have been the most effective opponents of Obamacare. Their efforts on this issue alone show unmistakably that the right-to-life movement is an indispensable part of the center-right coalition.
"Many observers were willing to dismiss abortion opponents just twelve months ago" after the 2008 election, New said. "Instead the pro-life movement rallied and enjoyed a successful year. We made impressive gains in public approval and exerted considerable influence in the debate over health-care reform. All of this bodes well for more substantial policy gains [in] the future."
Unlike last year, Obama did not say in his three-paragraph statement endorsing abortion rights that Americans are united in "our determination" to "reduce the need for abortion."
The president's entire statement said:
"Today we recognize the 37th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which affirms every woman's fundamental constitutional right to choose whether to have an abortion, as well as each American's right to privacy from government intrusion. I have, and continue to, support these constitutional rights.
"I also remain committed to working with people of good will to prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant women and families, and strengthen the adoption system.
"Today and every day, we must strive to ensure that all women have limitless opportunities to fulfill their dreams."
Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., challenged the president during his speech to participants at the March for Life.
"President Obama," Smith said, according to remarks prepared for the event, "is it really so hard to understand that abortion is violence against children, a pernicious form of child abuse, falsely marketed as choice, a human right, health care and safe? Abortion isn't health care. There is nothing whatsoever benign, healing or nurturing about abortion."