Thousands to march on Roe v. Wade anniversary

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

WASHINGTON -- Thousands of activists on both sides of the abortion debate are rallying to mark today's 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

On the eve of the anniversary, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception received about 7,000 people -- including five cardinals, 36 bishops and 250 priests -- for its annual "Mass for Life" and prayer service. Philadelphia Roman Catholic Archbishop Anthony Bevilacqua, who chairs an anti-abortion committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, led the service.

"Most anniversaries are causes for celebration," Bevilacqua said. "This one is not. It is a day of mourning. Mourning for this immoral, unjust, illogical decision."

Across town, NARAL Pro-Choice America hosted a dinner featuring Democratic presidential candidates, including former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri and Sens. John Edwards of North Carolina, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut.

This year's anniversary is the first since Republicans regained control of the Senate. The GOP also holds the House and the White House.

Abortion-rights supporters are wary the Republican domination -- coupled with the possibility of a retirement from the Supreme Court this year -- increases the chances Roe v. Wade could be eroded or overturned. The high court now is split 5-4 in favor of abortion rights.

Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, said her organization's focus will be on maintaining the current Supreme Court balance and ensuring that "we will not be the generation that both won and lost reproductive rights in our lifetime."

The largest demonstration Wednesday is expected to be the March for Life, an annual rally that Bush plans to address via satellite from St. Louis. The march starts at noon at the Washington Monument and ends at the Supreme Court steps.

Organizers predict more than 50,000 people will attend.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America has planned a counter-protest at the Supreme Court. It also will hold an "online rally" that will let people nationwide sign petitions to Bush and their members of Congress and watch a video on the history of Roe v. Wade.

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