WASHINGTON — Nearly 1,000 young people from throughout southern Louisiana joined the March for Life on a snowy Friday to the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in protest of the landmark decision that legalized abortion.
On the week of the 40th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision, this year’s march had the theme of “40 = 55M” for the purported 55 million abortions that have occurred in the past 40 years.
Blake Mougeot, 18, who made the trip with nearly 100 other St. Michael the Archangel High School students from the Baton Rouge area, called the trip a pilgrimage.
“To be united with all these students on this march, you have to believe it’s going to be impactful on people and what you’re doing is not for naught,” Mougeot said.
Fellow St. Michael student Brenna Huckaby, 13, said she wanted to help “save babies,” promote adoption opportunities and to push the argument that life begins at conception.
“It’s an important subject in my life, and I want to stand up for those who can’t,” she said.
The Louisiana students — nearly 500 each from the Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas — joined many thousands of anti-abortion demonstrators who met up on the National Mall to hear various speakers before marching to the Supreme Court. Demonstrators carried signs with messages such as “Defend Life” and “Defund Planned Parenthood,” shouted chants including “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go.”
Abortion remains a divisive issue with no dramatic shift in viewpoint on either side. A new Pew Research Center poll finds 63 percent of U.S. adults opposed to overturning Roe, compared to 60 percent in 1992. Earlier this week, abortion opponents marked the anniversary with workshops, prayers and calls for more limits on abortion rights.
While President Barack Obama supports abortion rights, he put out a statement this week noting, “Today and every day, my administration continues our efforts to reduce unintended pregnancies, support maternal and child health, and minimize the need for abortion. On this anniversary, we recommit ourselves to supporting women and families in the choices they make and redouble our efforts to promote safe and healthy communities.”
Louisiana law changed last year to require that a woman seeking to terminate a pregnancy must get an ultrasound 24 hours before the procedure and that she must be offered the ability to hear the fetal heartbeat.
New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond, who participates in the march each year, said he is impressed with the increased enthusiasm and the greater attendance of young people.
“I’m just invigorated by the young people and the passion for the pro-life cause,” Aymond said. “There’s no doubt they’ll change the culture of death to a culture of life.”
Emily Eymard, a 15-year-old Cabrini High School student in New Orleans, said she wanted to join the anti-abortion and prayer movement to save every fetus.
“They don’t have the voice to speak yet and they shouldn’t be killed for someone else’s mistake,” Eymard said.
Eymard and the rest of the New Orleans group of students met Thursday with Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, to discuss anti-abortion efforts.
“This movement is growing and gaining momentum every year, and we’re changing hearts and minds around Louisiana and across the country,” Vitter said Friday in a prepared statement. “I’m proud that Louisiana was recently recognized as the No. 1 pro-life state in the country, but we still have a long way to go. With the persistent witness of pro-life folks — including many, many young people — I’m confident that we will be successful.”
Vitter on Friday reintroduced his bill to prohibit federal funds in the form of family planning grants from being awarded to entities that perform abortions. He also reintroduced his Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, a bill that would make it illegal to obtain an abortion due to a gender preference.
Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, also put out a statement on Friday welcoming the March for Life participants.
“I’ve always stood very proudly on my pro-life credentials as a doctor,” Boustany said in a phone interview. “It gets back to core morality of our country and whether we respect life.”
Boustany wrote letters last year to the chairmen of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee and the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee asking for a congressional investigation into the allegedly poor safety and reporting practices of clinics that perform abortions in Louisiana and nationwide, including Delta Clinic of Baton Rouge.
In 2009, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals cited the Delta Clinic for not properly filling out “Report of Induced Termination of Pregnancy” forms.
But DHH Secretary Bruce Greenstein said last year that multiple return visits have demonstrated such poor reporting practices by the clinic were discontinued.
In December, Boustany wrote to Greenstein regarding abortion records requests and questions regarding the oversight of clinics are abortions are performed. Boustany said he is awaiting a response.
Boustany said he is concerned about Louisiana clinics potentially operating “without any kind of oversight as to what they’re doing.”