Marchers mark Roe’s 40thTo mark the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, more abortion opponents than ever made the 1,300-mile trip from the Catholic dioceses edging the Red River of the North to the March of Life on the National Mall in Washington.
By: By Stephen J. Lee, Forum News Service, The Jamestown Sun
To mark the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, more abortion opponents than ever made the 1,300-mile trip from the Catholic dioceses edging the Red River of the North to the March of Life on the National Mall in Washington.
About 220 people from the Diocese of Fargo and 71 from the Diocese of Crookston made the trip as a pilgrimage, diocesan officials said.
Usually, 20 to 40 from the Fargo diocese go to the Washington event held since 1974 near the Jan. 22 anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.
Often, few or none have gone from the smaller Crookston diocese.
But this year, about 122 students from Shanley High School and across eastern North Dakota rode buses to Washington, and another 100 from the region made the trip by plane or other means.
About two dozen students from Sacred Heart schools in East Grand Forks were part of a group of 71 in two buses traveling from the Crookston diocese.
No official estimate of crowds on the National Mall is announced. But Right to Life organizers said 500,000 were expected Friday, twice the number often estimated for the event.
News accounts Friday didn’t venture beyond “thousands,” or “tens of thousands,” or in the case of Fox News, “hundreds of thousands,” in describing the March.
Several past and present Congressional members addressed the crowd.
Praise from advocates
A much smaller crowd of abortion rights supporters also made their voices heard along the March.
A national poll released this week reported that slightly more Americans, 63 percent, oppose outlawing abortion, compared with 60 percent a year or two ago. But support for restricting abortion has grown, the poll shows.
As Right to Life marchers pray for abortion to end, abortion rights supporters celebrate the last 40 years.
“As the nation’s leading women’s health care provider and advocate, Planned Parenthood understands that abortion is a deeply personal and often complex decision for a woman to consider, if and when she needs it,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement released recently. “A woman should have accurate information about all of her options around her pregnancy. To protect her health and the health of her family, a woman must have access to safe, legal abortion without interference from politicians, as protected by the Supreme Court for the last 40 years.”
‘Moving and powerful’
Young people from this region voiced enthusiasm Friday just before the March, in telephone interviews with the Herald.
“It’s really interesting and moving and powerful,” said Bailey Bitz, 16, on Friday from the Mall before beginning the March, after a Mass held in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. She and three other girls from Napoleon, N.D., flew from Fargo with a group of 30 led by the Rev. Kurt Gunwall.
“I came because I’m against abortion and I think it’s wrong and evil,” Bitz said. “I want to be part of the walk to be a witness to others to show them this is wrong and that children have the right to live.”
The local Knights of Columbus and her parents helped her pay for the trip, Bitz said.
After a Mass Thursday night at the Basilica, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver, until last summer bishop in Fargo, stopped to chat with some of the Fargo pilgrims, Bitz said.
Daniel Kraemer, 15, of Grand Forks, who watched his older brother Matthew be ordained a priest last year in Fargo, said he’s active in Teens for Life and was enjoying rubbing shoulders with so many like-minded people Friday.
“I really love working with pro-life activists,” he said.
Gunwall has made the January trip many times and said the crowd appeared to be much larger than usual.
The young people on the trip raised funds by selling pies during weekend Masses and getting donations from parishes and individuals, Gunwall said.
More see ‘nonsense’
The trip’s $850 cost was kept modest by students using sleeping bags on floors and couches in a Franciscan residence that donated the space, he said.
The students from Crookston and Fargo dioceses carried signs saying “I am the Pro-Life Generation,” made by Students For Life.
Crookston Bishop Michael Hoeppner didn’t make the trip himself, but said Friday he sees a growing opposition to abortion, especially among young people.
“Our young people look at that decision made 40 years ago and ask, ‘How can you say that in a country where we talk about the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that the right to life is denied?’ And government funding even supports some abortions. The nonsense of it is more and more apparent to people,” he said.
Elizabeth Rzepka, youth ministry coordinator for the Crookston diocese, said Friday the 71 pilgrims on two buses include Minnesota students from Greenbush, Warroad, Park Rapids, Detroit Lakes, Moorhead and Dilworth as well as Crookston and East Grand Forks.
“I organized this trip particularly for our youth to give them the opportunity to stand in solidarity with thousands of other youth and to realize they do not stand for the dignity of life in isolation,” Rzepka told the Herald from the Mall. “It invigorates and inspires our young people to join half a million marchers in this peaceful, prayerful protest in the heart of our nation’s capital.”
This is the third trip to the March for Gaelen Mibeck, 17, of Grand Forks.
“It’s very important for us to physically participate in the demonstration,” he said Friday in a telephone call from the Mall before the March. “Because with all the abstract ideas and arguments thrown around, it’s easy to forget that the pro-life and the pro-choice movements are made up of people. This is a great reminder that there are not only people who agree with you but people who disagree with you and things make a bit more sense after seeing things like this.”