WASHINGTON- As they mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, the tens of thousands of pro-lifers that fill the National Mall each January for the March for Life are used to cold weather, and in more recent years they've been used to getting a cold shoulder from the Democratic-controlled Congress.
Monday brought especially bitter cold to Washington, D.C., but the mood was warm and the turnout was high. Support for the pro-life cause has continued to grow, and the largest pro-life congressional class since Roe v. Wade just took office in the House (see "Legislating for life," Jan. 29, 2011, issue). No pro-abortion protestors were immediately visible along the length of the crowd, which marched a mile from the mall to the Supreme Court. A boy scraped a message with a stick in the gravel on the mall: "Go babies!"
"I think the movement feels its strength, and it should," Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, told me. "The electoral strength that it just exercised should be turned into legislative strength." But she added, "I really do believe [the march] should be a celebration."
The pro-life lawmakers lined up at the rally before the march to speak, calling for Congress to block federal funding for abortion domestically and overseas, and to defund Planned Parenthood. But they also just celebrated.
"We have eight new pro-life Republican women! Thank you!" shouted Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, to the crowd.
"We're up for a new day in this Congress," said Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala.
Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., directed a word of caution to Congress, and perhaps to his own Republican leadership: "Amidst these struggles some would have us focus on jobs and spending. Those who would ignore the battle of life have forgotten history. . . . A nation that will not stand for life will not stand for long. You know there can be no lasting prosperity without a moral foundation in law."
Others attending the March for Life also expressed cautious optimism about the Republican-led House, but groups like the Susan B. Anthony List hailed three House bills already introduced to block federal funding for abortion. Marchers discussed 2012, and the opportunity to vote out a pro-abortion president.
"Free hot chocolate!" called out Alexander Kiczek, of Middletown, N.J., standing under a tree with his wife, Carol. They had a big pot of the stuff on a camper stove, ladling it out to passersby. "I just don't feel like going anywhere without feeding somebody," said Kiczek, who serves on the board of directors for a soup kitchen.
Teenagers, who made up most of the crowd at the march, swarmed the pot of hot chocolate, wearing sweatshirts with slogans like, "Your MOM is pro-life!"
Kiczek isn't sure Republicans will follow through on their promises, or that Congress will do much for the pro-life cause: "It's very difficult, that's all. It's hopeful, but hopeful is different from being completely optimistic. But if we weren't somewhat optimistic we wouldn't be here, would we?" He interrupts himself: "Free hot chocolate! Hey, for you, I'm charging double! Look at the size of that guy!"
Then Kiczek explained further: "Optimistic is like when you start putting up a crib and buying baby clothes. Hopeful is when you're still trying to have a baby."
The Kiczeks' foster son, Ronald Shough, 56, stood nearby holding a sign. Shough, who is disabled, has lived with them 30 years. He was born with a cleft palate, which wasn't repaired and kept him from learning to speak, hampering his mental development. The Kiczeks took him in when the state sent the institutionalized into homes. The couple has seven children, now ages 24 to 42, but began taking in disabled adult foster children after losing one of their children soon after birth to a heart defect.
"They said, 'He's not very good looking,'" Carol Kiczek remembered. "We said, 'What . . . is the difference?'. . . All children are God's children."