WASHINGTON — Tens of thousands of people from across the United States and abroad gathered at National Mall for the annual March for Life. The large gathering calling for the advancement of the pro-life cause in America took place as the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives gave the demonstrators a mixed message.
While the lower House of Congress passed a bill to strip abortion providers of taxpayer funds, called the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act, they delayed a vote on a ban for abortions performed twenty weeks after fertilization, known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
Rick Santorum, former Republican member of the U.S. Senate and participant in the March for Life, told The Christian Post that he was happy with the vote to approve the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act.
"Well, they're going to pass a good bill today; a good pro-life bill," said Santorum, who noted the march was "disproportionately young and disproportionately women."
"And they promised to bring the other bill up as soon as they can work out what I think are technically minor problems from what I hear," he added.
Santorum's remarks came at the March for Life, a major pro-life event that falls on the anniversary of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade.
While no confirmed exact number of attendees is available, local media estimated that "tens of thousands" were in attendance on a day considerably warmer than last year.
Throngs of people from various denominations, Catholic schools, Catholic dioceses and Archdioceses, as well as several states crowded the muddy ground of the National Mall.
Many attendees held signs including, "Defend Life," "Women do Regret Abortion," "Life Counts," "I Am The Pro-Life Generation," and its Spanish equivalent, "Yo Soy la Generacion Pro-Vida."
Several speakers addressed the audience, including U.S. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, U.S. Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey, Students for Life President Kristan Hawkins, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop President the Rev. Joseph Kurtz, and Rev. Samuel Rodriquez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
There was also a social media element. Attendees for the March were encouraged to post photos from the rally with hashtags like #WhyWeMarch and #MarchforLife.
A historically Catholic event, Pope Francis tweeted his support for the event, posting the message "Every Life is a Gift #MarchforLife."
Within hours of the Pontiff's online endorsement, the tweet received over 14,500 retweets and nearly 20,000 favorites.
Lila Rose, president and founder of the prolife group Live Action, told The Christian Post that the March was one of many events and efforts in the movement.
"The march is obviously commemorating the lives of the lost after Roe and so it's important that we do that, but at the same time the march is just one event," said Rose.
Several other events were held nationwide in the days leading up to the Roe anniversary, as well as many events hosted this week by The March for Life Education & Defense Fund at the Renaissance Washington D.C. Downtown Hotel.
As with past years, marchers went from the National Mall to the Supreme Court building, with demonstrators flanking the large column of supporters as they made their way.
Outside the Supreme Court, the March encountered a small but vocal group of counter-protesters, holding signs that read "Abortion on Demand & Without Apology" and photos of women who reportedly died due to being denied an abortion for a dangerous pregnancy.
Originally, the Republican-dominated House was going to vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act on the anniversary of Roe, but the effort was delayed.
The delay caused outrage among some pro-life Christian leaders including Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore.
"This decision is a severe breach of trust that we cannot let go unchallenged," said Moore, noting in another statement that the delay was an "act of moral cowardice."
"If the House Republicans cannot pass something as basic as restricting the abortion of five-month, pain-capable unborn children, what can they get done?" continued Moore.
Regarding the so-called "vote swap" of the two pro-life bills, Rose of Live Action told CP that she felt the first objective of the political efforts of the pro-life movement should be to remove taxpayer funding of abortions.
"I think that the first step to ending abortion in our country and the first responsibility especially the House … is to cut taxpayer funding of the abortion industry," said Rose.
"So I applaud any steps in that direction and I think there needs to be more force of will and commitment to that end."
While the Pain-Capable Child Protection Act is expected to eventually be voted on and passed by Congress, President Barack Obama is on record as having said he will veto the legislation.