Today marks 36 years that pro-life groups have assembled in Washington to mark the 1973 Supreme Court’s landmark decision, Roe v. Wade. At CNS we thought it would be interesting to see what we said about that first march on Jan. 22, 1974.
Fredrick A. Green covered the first march for CNS (then NC News). He reported that 15,000 people showed up, many on buses from around the country.
“The right-to-life advocates spent the morning lobbying the offices of senators and members of the House of Representatives and then gathered in the afternoon at the west steps of the Capitol to hear speeches by congressional sponsors of human life amendments and leaders of the right-to-life movement.
“Later, they marched in a ‘circle of life’ around the Capitol,” he wrote.
Among the speakers were Sen. James Buckley, R-N.Y., and Rep. Lawrence Hogan, R-Md. Both men had introduced human life amendments in Congress. Hogan told Green that the demonstration “will be a boost” to his efforts.
“Some congressmen, apparently moved by the demonstrators, had called earlier in the day to offer their signatures, Hogan said, and he expects to get more support after the rally,” Green wrote.
Another speaker was Msgr. James McHugh, director of the U.S. Catholic Conference family life division. (A number of years later Msgr. McHugh became Bishop McHugh, and the USCC became the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Bishop McHugh has since died. The USCCB is still going strong.)
Green noted other events around the country to mark the first anniversary. Among them:
– In Oregon, leaflets were distributed to 100,000 homes.
– In Philadelphia, 15,000 persons gathered at Independence Hall.
– On Capitol Hill, 22,000 red roses were delivered to Members of Congress, a rose was delivered to all 140 members of the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates, and in Minnesota 1,600 roses were sent to legislators.
– In Peoria, Ill., 300 people gathered in the county courthouse plaza and heard the Rev. John Hoffman say, “I’m a liberal Protestant, and liberal Protestants aren’t supposed to be opposing abortion.” But a fetus, he said is a human from the moment of conception. “The only thing it seems to lack is a voice to speak up and proclaim life, and it’s up to us to give it that voice.”
– In New York, Cardinal Terence Cooke announced plans to build a parent-child development center at the Foundling Hospital.
– North Dakota went all out with a week of events. The highlight was a Saturday-night statewide television program featuring Bishop Justin A. Driscoll of Fargo, Sen. Buckley of New York, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and Lutheran pastor Rev. Gary Clark. Just before noon on Jan. 22, church bells in every Catholic church and many Protestant ones rang out.
The event in Washington wasn’t without it moments of conflict. Students from the University of Maryland circulated a questionnaire that had event “marshals” scrambling.
Green wrote: “The students insisted that they were conducting a sociological study designed to determine if the participants in the demonstration fit the ‘stereotypes’ commonly associated with the anti-abortion movement. The questionnaire asked about sex, race, education, political affiliation and religion. The long list of questions included one on how the participants felt about making birth control information available to unmarried teenagers.”
An official of the National Right to Life Organization, as it was then called, said that they had “reviewed” but not “endorsed” the questionaire. How did they respond? In a pretty American way. Green reported that that the NRLO “did not feel it could interfere with the students’ right to ask questions at the rally.”
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