A story in yesterday's Washington Post said that antiabortion groups oppose birth control pills and contraceptive devices such as IUDs. Nellie Gray, president of March for Life, who had been quoted in the story, said the group has not taken any position on contraceptives, but opposes "any drug or device that would expel the fertilized ovum or prevent implantation of the fertilized ovum."
Tens of thousands of people from across the country marched from the Ellipse to the steps of the Capitol yesterday to protest a 1973 Supreme Court ruling that gave women the right to have abortions under certain circumstances.
Some of them came from small towns with names like Hays, Kan., and Bascom, Ohio (population 464); others from Brooklyn and Baltimore; and still others traveled from South Dakota and farther to make what many said was a moral statement.
"I don't believe in abortion," said Karen Summers, 28, who traveled from Charlotte, N.C. "I don't believe there are any unwanted children. It bothers me that since the amendment was passed about 6 million babies have been killed."
Carrying signs that read: "Abortion -- America's holocaust" and "You had your chance, why not give babies theirs," the demonstrators began their march at about noon under drizzling gray skies.It continued to rain as the thousands of marchers trudged along Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol's west lawn.
March for Life sponsors estimated the crowd at 100,000, about 40,000 more than last year. But U.S. Park Police said they estimated there were 28,000 marchers, a figure they based on head counts at the Ellipse and as the group passed the White House. D.C. police estimated that a total of 45,000 people attended both the rally and the march.
Yesterday's activity was the high point of two days of vigils and congressional lobbying by groups against and for abortion. Only the antiabortion group, however, held the march and rally.
Seven years ago yesterday the Supreme Court ruled that mothers had the right to determine during the first three months of pregnancy whether to continue the pregnancy and bear a child.
The ruling immediately set off debate that still goes on, with the issue unresolved in the minds of many across the country. People against abortion, who call themselves "proabortion" and those who say abortion should be a matter of choice and who therefore call themselves "pro-choice," squared off to wage a continuing political battle to influence public opinion and Congress.
The activity resulted in the 1976 amendment to Medicaid legislation introduced by Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) that prohibited the use of federal funds for Medicaid abortions. Opponents of the amendment critized it as a measure that would prohibit the poor from getting abortions while not similarly restricting the affluent.
On Jan. 15, U.S. District Judge John F. Dooling in New York City ruled the Hyde amendment unconstitutional. The Justice Department is appealing the ruling to the Supreme Court.
Pro- and antiabortion forces have also taken sides on a constitutional amendment cosponsored by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and Rep. Robert K. aDornan (R-Calif.) that would prohibit women from having abortions for any reason.
Nellie Gray, president of March for Life, said yesterday that antiabortion groups oppose any "drug or device that would expel the fertilized ovum or prevent implantation of the fertilized ovum." She said that opponents of abortions would extend their opposition to birth control pills and devices such as IUDs.
"The pro-life position is that you wouldn't put something in your body that would kill a baby," she said.
Gray's position is opposed by pro-abortion groups such as the National Organization for Women. Ellie Smeal, NOW's president, said her group and others that favor abortion are increasing their lobbying efforts because "we feel that the whole area of birth control is in danger."
'What these groups have done," Smeal said, 'is to take the whole reporductive rights question out of context -- it is a health issue and they've made it a religious one. They are limiting life options for females.They are saying that women not only shold be prohibited from having abortions, but from using any other contraceptives as well. They advocate a return to natural family planning, which is not always effective."
Maria DeCesade, a mother of five, brought her 8-year-old daughter, Barbara from Westminter, Md., to join in the demonstration. "A lot of people died in German concentration camps, died in Communist China and people have weeped for them," DeCesade said. "I cannot believe these same people turn their backs on innocent babies."
In the candlelight vigil late Monday night in front of the Supreme Court building, Patricia Harding-Clark joined pro-choice marchers who commemorated the 1973 Supreme Court rules. She stood in the cold with her 10-month-old daughter, Sarah, and as she reflected on her own experiences, she painfully, slowly sought words to convey her own abortion experience.
"I had an illegal abortion in 1962," said Harding-Clark, a Falls Church resident who plans to have other children. "It's a fearful experience. I could be sitting at home comfortable in my living room, but I felt that I had to come out here in support of a woman's free choice, as a mother. I don't want the country to go back to some kind of back-alley way to deal with aborotion.
"I remember my experience. I was 18, and I was in a dirty motel room in New York City getting an abortion by a nameless doctor who wanted $500 in advance," she said, caressing baby Sarah, a child Harding-Clark said was very precious to her because "we planned for her."
Harding-Clark said she was upset because in parts of the country poor mothers who don't want children are forced to have them because of the Hyde amendment.
In the District of Columbia, the city continues to pay for Medicaid abortions, but with city funds. City Medicaid officials said that after Aug. 4, 1977, when the federal government stopped funds for abortions, the city picked up the tab at more than $1.3 million a year.
According to city officials, the city paid for 4,365 abortions in 1978 and 5,679 in 1979. For several years, abortions have outnumbered births here.
Antiabortion forces estimated that 7 to 9 million abortions have been performed since the Supreme Court's 1973 ruling.