The Marchers State Their Case: Alito v. 'Roe'

By Dana Milbank
Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Ray Nagin and Franklin Graham have recently propounded that foul weather is a sign of God's wrath, so the cold rain and dark clouds over the annual March for Life yesterday might have been cause for concern.

But antiabortion leaders took the gloom and damp as a different sort of sign. "I think it's God's way of cleansing the evil in the world," Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) told the ebullient crowd of tens of thousands.

These are good times for the movement. Thirty-three years since the Roe v. Wade decision made abortion legal nationwide, its foes spoke yesterday with the confidence -- the swagger, almost -- of a movement on the verge of victory.

"This might be our last march!" exulted Steven Peroutka, chairman of the National Pro-Life Action Center, addressing a crowd of about 500 activists in the Russell Senate Office Building. "Our next march very well may be the March to Celebrate the Overturning of Roe v. Wade !" The crowd went nuts.

The Rev. Rob Schenk, president of the National Clergy Council, concurred. "If things continue as they are going right now," he told the gathering, sponsored by Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), "our greatest challenge will be to prepare for the post- Roe era!"

It was a day of clarity after weeks of fuzz generated by Supreme Court nominee Sam Alito and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The nominee -- expected to be endorsed by the committee today -- maintained that he did not have strong legal views about abortion. And senators acted as if abortion were not the reason they would vote for or against him.

But at yesterday's March for Life, neither speaker nor marcher was confused by the Kabuki. "We must support the confirmation of Judge Alito and other jurists who will support a strict-constructionist view of the law and make it possible once and for all to end Roe v. Wade ," Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), a leading House conservative, thundered.

In the crowd, Sheila Wharam of Baltimore was festive, almost jubilant. "We're getting close," she said, holding a banner urging "Mr. Justices, Please Reverse Roe v. Wade."

The ceremonies began with a "National Memorial for the Pre-Born" in the Russell Caucus Room, where marchers overflowed from the chairs and sat 12 deep along the wall. A Baptist choir sang "It's All About You, Jesus," for the worshipers, including the family of the late Terri Schiavo.

The Rev. Frank Pavone, the national director of Priests for Life, saw the movement's success as "a response to Jesus Christ, and it is confirmation that He, alone, is Lord." Pavone continued: "We don't have the Ark of the Covenant in 2006. We are the Ark of the Covenant."

Peroutka, too, saw victory at hand. "We're no longer the right-wing Christian nuts," the religious broadcaster observed. He urged preparation for Roe 's demise. "We might see the end of Roe v. Wade very quickly," he cautioned.

At the door, a Senate staffer was trying to shut down the event, claiming worship services were not allowed in the building. But the ushers wouldn't hear of it. "Pay no attention to her," one called out. "She comes every year."

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