WASHINGTON — Bundled up on a frigid day in blowing snow, Garrett Finnell, of Edmond, marched with tens of thousands of people here Friday from the National Mall to the U.S. Supreme Court to protest the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.
“The right to life is a huge issue in our nation, and it's important to me as a young person that I stand up and do something, whatever I can, to push that issue and show everyone in this nation that it's important to young people,” Finnell said.
“As a Catholic from Oklahoma, specifically, I want to be here. I want to represent my state. It was a long trip — it was a 24-hour bus ride — but it's totally worth it to be here and to experience all this.”
For Finnell, who said he attends the University of Central Oklahoma, it was a first March for Life. The annual event is held around the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. Other Oklahomans on the march were veterans.
“I've come many times,” said the Most Rev. Paul Coakley, Oklahoma City archbishop.
“I'm always impressed by the youthfulness of the crowd. It seems like it gets younger each year, and it gets larger. The March for Life is not a sprint, it's a marathon because step by step I think we have to change hearts in order to transform the culture.
“Ultimately I think the end game would be that somehow Roe v. Wade would be overturned and our nation would begin to recognize that we don't need it, that our nation will recognize that life is sacred and life is to be defended from the moment of conception to its natural end.
“It's going to be a long haul. The youthful enthusiasm gives me hope for the future, but I'm not expecting any quick fixes given the political winds as they're blowing here in Washington today,” Coakley said.
Anti-abortion protesters from across the nation attended the march and the preceding rally, where march organizers and current and former politicians spoke to the crowd.
In a video message, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called abortion “a defining human rights issue of our time. Because human life is not an economic or political commodity, and no government on Earth has the right to treat it as such.”
U.S. Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, and Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, introduced legislation with other senators Friday to ensure elective abortion is not subsidized with taxpayer money under the newly created multistate health plans.
“This legislation protects the consciences of Americans who are morally opposed to paying for elective abortions,” Coburn said.
President Barack Obama released a statement on Tuesday, the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade, commending its “historic commitment to protect the health and reproductive freedom of women across this country and stand by its guiding principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters, and women should be able to make their own choices about their bodies and their health care.
“Today and every day, my Administration continues our efforts to reduce unintended pregnancies, support maternal and child health and minimize the need for abortion.”
‘Continuing the fight'
Sheila Mazkoori, a student at the University of Oklahoma, echoed Boehner's sentiment that abortion is a human rights cause.
Mazkoori, who was attending her fourth march, said the number of participants was growing.
“It just shows how far we're progressing forward,” she said. “I think it's going to change sooner than we think, I think in the next 10 years.”
Oklahoma City attorney Kevin Calvey, a leader in Oklahomans for Life, said about 250 Oklahomans came on a group of buses to attend the march.
“I think a fairly significant majority of Americans are uncomfortable with abortion and believe that it should be subject to more reasonable regulation than it is currently,” said Calvey, who advocates for restrictions at the state Capitol.
“But the court system is the roadblock and always has been. We think there are some things that can be done in the near term to give more protections to children in the womb. As far as overturning Roe versus Wade itself — not with the current president and the Senate.”
Calvey said he has been working on changes to the state's parental notification law; he said the current notification requirements can be bypassed with a judge's order to prevent a mother's parents from learning of the abortion, even though the procedure might endanger the mother's life.
Chris Capehart, of Sallisaw, said she came mainly to support the children in her parish who wanted to attend.
“It's very powerful to be here,” she said. “It's been an education … The more I march, and the more people I meet and hear their testimonies, the more convicted I become about my stance on abortion and life.”
Abby Pollart, youth director at Holy Family Parish in Lawton, said, “I think today is a true example of how we're not alone in this fight, that there are a lot of people who have our backs and everybody's in it together. Now that I'm a youth director and no longer in college, it's great to see the next generation is continuing the fight that's been started.”