Oldline Churches Participate in Abortion March
John Lomperis | May 20, 2004

On Sunday, April 25, hundreds of thousands of abortion rights supporters gathered in Washington, D.C., for the “March for Women’s Lives.”  One rally speaker claimed—with obvious hyperbole—that 41 million people had turned out for the event.  Ironically, that is approximately how many American unborn children have lost their lives to abortion since 1973, when the Supreme Court legalized abortion through all nine months of pregnancy.

GBCS at Abortion Rally
Representatives of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society participate in the "March for Women's Lives" in Washington, DC.

The April 25 march had a predictable coalition of principal organizers: Planned Parenthood Federation of America (America’s largest abortion provider), NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).  The large list of official co-sponsors included many interesting groups, such as the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Communist Party USA, the Democratic Socialists of America, the International Socialist Organization, the Green Party of the United States, the Human Rights Campaign (America’s largest homosexual advocacy group), the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce, Global Goddess, the Ladies' Misbehavior Society, and Bitch magazine.  

Several religious bodies also offered their unqualified endorsement and financial support to the event, marching side-by-side with their secular counterparts in the abortion rights movement.  Among the officially participating denominations were the Episcopal

Presbyterian Abortion Supporters
Presbyterian abortion supporters prepare to march.

Church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Methodist Church (through the General Board of Church and Society and the Women’s Division of the General Board of Global Ministries), the United Church of Christ (UCC), the American Friends Service Committee, and the Unitarian Universalist Association.  Representatives of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, and the Episcopal Church (U.S.A) marched with official banners from their respective denominations.  A sign on the front door of the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill that day declared that God was speaking through the UCC to support the march.  Earlier that morning, the UCC’s political action branch (which is housed in the United Methodist Building) hosted a breakfast for march participants.  

Another group active in supporting and participating in the march was the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), a pro-abortion political lobby supported by the aforementioned Protestant groups, among others.  On the Friday before the main event, RCRC organized an effort to lobby members of Congress after a send-off luncheon in the United Methodist Building.  (The luncheon was closed to reporters.)  

The day before the march, RCRC held a 24-hour “Interfaith Prayer Vigil.”  Throughout the day, however, the group was unable to maintain a significant number of people willing to pray for the cause of abortion.  At least once, the vigil was reduced to a skeleton crew of one.  

Rabbi Balfour Brickner condemned pro-life activists as "twisted ideologues."

Immediately before the march’s opening rally, RCRC organized an “Interfaith Worship Service” attended by several hundred enthusiastic, sign-waving activists.  Rabbi Balfour Brickner pulled no punches in denouncing abortion opponents as “twisted ideologues” who have “carr[ied] us back into the Middle Ages” and who want to “again teach everybody that the Earth is flat and the sun revolves around it, … who would teach us that the Bible is inerrantly true and not a book of mythology.”  Brickner also attacked promoters of pre-marital chastity for “forc[ing] kids into abstinence pledges they and we know they can’t, won’t, and don’t keep.”  Other speakers at the service labeled pro-life people as “extremists” and “the forces of oppression.”  The Rev. Mark Pawlowski of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) claimed that “God stands with all of us, regardless of where we stand” and that whenever “women choose to have abortions, they are acting with integrity.”  The Presbyterian minister did not seem to leave any room for the possibility that some abortions might be immoral, or that God might stand in judgment of these and other sinful acts.

Participants in the worship service—which felt more like a rally—also heard from Genie Bank, President of the Women’s Division of the United Methodist Church, and the Rev. Ignacio Castuera, a prominent United Methodist clergyman from California who was recently appointed to be Planned Parenthood’s “chaplain.”  There were also speakers from several non-Christian faith traditions.  

According to the Washington Post, “the dominant themes of the day were two.  Again and again, march participants vowed that abortion was here to stay.  And that Bush had to go.”  

Veazey Suit
Rev. Carlton Veazey of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

The march around Capitol Hill began and ended with a rally on the national Mall in which participants heard from dozens of celebrities and veteran activists, including the Rev. Katherine Ragsdale, an Episcopal priest, and the Rev. Carlton Veazey, head of RCRC.  The latter claimed to speak for the members of all the RCRC-endorsing denominations and alleged that pro-life people not only oppose abortion rights but “are trying to roll back every right!”  Another activist told the cheering crowd that the rally site was “sacred space” and that “this is the place to be on Sunday morning—not the churches!”  Many of the speakers made the odd and ironic assertion that it was not for themselves but “for the children” that they were defending abortion.  

Those not in attendance will have little idea of the amount of extreme vulgarity evident in the signs and slogans of the demonstrators, as well as in some official speeches from the podium.  Respectable sources, including the IRD, are unable to print or broadcast the many lewd references to female anatomy and sexual acts.  

The event had an unmistakably partisan tone. Many of the official speakers made explicit exhortations urging the crowd to “put a Democrat in the White House”—in the words of actress Linda Carter—and “to elect John Kerry”—in the words of Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY).  The roster of featured speakers included fourteen members of Congress, all of whom were Democrats.  

The agenda of the event clearly went far beyond what even many “pro-choice” Americans believe, as countless speakers denounced the federal ban on partial-birth abortions, called for increased taxpayer funds for abortion, and attacked laws requiring minor girls to notify their parents before undergoing abortion surgery.  They also resorted to name-calling, denouncing pro-life people as “cowards,” “peckerwood anti-choice fanatics,” and people “who have no shame,” among many other epithets.  (“Peckerwood” is a derogatory term for a rural white southerner.)

Abortion Belly
A pro-abortion activist. Words do no justice...

While speaker after speaker claimed that “most Americans support us,” a Zogby poll taken one week before the march revealed that 49 percent of Americans self-identify as “pro-life” while only 45 percent self-identify as “pro-choice.”  Furthermore, 70 percent of Americans oppose partial-birth abortion, according to a CNN poll from January 2003.  

During the course of the march, hundreds of peaceful pro-life counter-protestors endured a steady stream of hurled curses, hateful shouts, and even an occasional projectile (including black ink, spit, Planned Parenthood condoms with crude jokes on them, an egg, and a flier picturing Jesus and reading: “Save Lives / Abort Christ”).  The main pro-life groups represented were American Collegians for Life; Silent No More (a Christian ministry of and for post-abortive women); Feminists for Life; an African-American evangelical group called the Life, Education and Resource Network (LEARN), and Operation Witness.  The pro-choice marchers reserved some of their most energetic shouts and confrontations for the Silent No More women quietly holding signs that said, simply, “I Regret My Abortion.”  

At one point a march participant pointed to an RCRC sign and mockingly yelled to some pro-life counter-protesters, “Jesus is with us!”

Date: 5/20/2004

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