Tuesday, January 21, 2003

More than 800 to attend March for Life



By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

More than 800 Tristate residents plan to leave for Washington, D.C., today for an anti-abortion march there Wednesday noting the 30th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.

Organizers of the annual March for Life say they have noticed a marked increase in interest this year.

They're expecting hundreds of thousands of people to participate in a rally and march that starts at noon at the Washington Monument and ends 10 blocks away at the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building.

"A lot of people think you can't change things," said Ken Laake, co-chair of the religion department at Elder High School in Price Hill, who will take about 40 students to Wednesday's march.

"High school students are some of the most idealistic people around and they want to change things," said Mr. Laake.

"If anything will be changed down the road it will be because of their convictions."

Mr. Laake, with the support of Elder's administration, has taken students to the Washington event every year for about 15 years.

The Supreme Court's Jan. 22, 1973, decision sided with "Jane Roe," an unmarried woman who sought an abortion.

She challenged a Texas law that made it illegal for a woman to have an abortion unless her pregnancy endangered her life.

The Supreme Court's decision declared the Texas law and every other state law that prohibited abortion unconstitutional, contending that they violated a woman's right to privacy.

Planned Parenthood offices were closed Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday, and they and other abortion-rights advocates could not be reached for comment.

Abortion-rights advocates have credited the 1973 decision with saving the lives of thousands of women who now can legally and safely undergo abortions.

In addition, they have said Roe v. Wade helped women take a large step toward economic and social freedom by allowing them increased control over their reproductive choices.

Cincinnati figures prominently in the war of words that has been waged for decades between those with opposing views on the issue.

The Right to Life movement was founded in Cincinnati, and the city is also home to a clinic run by Dr. Martin Haskell, a physician known for performing a procedure that has been called "partial-birth" abortion.

In the 30 years since the Roe v. Wade decision, Karen Riegler has become both a mother and a grandmother. She remembers thinking Roe v. Wade wouldn't last. But in the three decades since the decision, Mrs. Riegler says she has watched this country slip into a "culture of death."

"It has marked a time in our history where we are disregarding human life in its most innocent form," she said.

Mrs. Riegler is the coordinator of the Diocese of Covington's Pro-Life Commission.

Her group has organized seven buses - 360 people - that will leave from the Catholic Center gym, 947 Donaldson Road, Erlanger, at about 7 p.m.

Other buses carrying hundreds from the Greater Cincinnati area are expected to leave today from areas across the Tristate, including St. Peter in Chains Cathedral at Eighth and Plum streets.

Paula Westwood, executive director of Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati, said eight buses carrying about 450 people will leave from the cathedral at about 7:30 p.m., following a brief service presided over by Archbishop Daniel Pilarcyzk.

Once in Washington, participants can attend a Congressional breakfast where they will hear members of Congress speak.

The rally starts at noon, the march about 1 p.m., officials said.

The buses are expected to return to Cincinnati early Thursday.

This will be Bob Bieger's eighth trip to Washington for the March for Life.

The history/government teacher at St. Henry District High School in Erlanger said he views the march as "an excellent opportunity (for his students) to take part in the historical and political process."

"This (march) is a starting point for them to understand the (political) system," Mr. Bieger said.

"I don't think a lot of the leaders in our government understand the issue. ... But by doing this the students, themselves, at least begin to develop an idea of their beliefs.''

"The historical significance of Roe v. Wade is that it has diminished our value of human life," he added.

E-mail mmccain@enquirer.com




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