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Abortion Opponents and Rights Activists Hold Marches in Washington DC

Thousands of abortion opponents from around the United States marched in Washington Wednesday to mark the 30th anniversary of the controversial Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in 1973. Abortion rights advocates are also using the anniversary to mobilize support.

These young anti-abortion activists braved bitter cold temperatures and a 25-hour bus ride from Kansas to take part in the annual March for Life held in Washington.

The anti-abortion marchers had a warm reception for President Bush who addressed the rally by telephone from St. Louis. "My hope is that the United States Senate will pass a bill this year banning partial-birth abortion, which I will sign. Partial-birth abortion is an abhorrent procedure that offends human dignity," the president said.

Abortion opponents use the term partial-birth abortion to describe a late-term abortion procedure.

With Republicans now controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress, anti-abortion activists like Dale Rexrode from Pennsylvania are expecting action. "Babies are real, they are live, they are human beings. They are not just a vessel to use and do away with when we don't want them," he said.

Abortion rights advocates are also using the Roe v. Wade anniversary to mobilize public support.

The six Democrats who have announced they are running for president appeared at a dinner Tuesday sponsored by one of the leading abortion rights organizations.

Missouri Congressman Richard Gephardt was among them. He said, "The freedom to choose has never been in more peril than it is today. And the imperative for the Democratic Party is to assert and reassert its leadership and to protect this vital right," Mr. Gephardt said.

Abortion rights activists worry that a retirement on the U.S. Supreme Court would allow President Bush to appoint an anti-abortion justice, reversing the current five to four majority in favor of legalized abortion.

Kate Michelman heads a group called the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. She said, "If Roe is overturned, women will return to and die in the back alleys of this nation. If Roe is overturned, women will be forced to bear children against their will with devastating consequences for both women and their children."

So far, none of the nine Supreme Court justices have given any hint of retirement.

Abortion opponents said they will push the Republican-controlled Congress to enact more restrictions on abortion. Pro-abortion rights groups, meanwhile, are demanding that Senate Democrats block any Supreme Court nominee who opposes abortion.