Chants of "Life, life, life!" filled the air as light rain fell on the steps of the Legislative Building. While the skies were cloudy in Olympia on Tuesday afternoon, the message coming from the thousands of marchers at the Capitol was clear: End abortions.
Supporters came from across the state and joined together for the 33rd annual Washington State March for Life. They came bearing crosses with red roses and signs to remind elected officials and their communities they won’t budge or remain silent on the issue of abortion.
Across the lawn, a small group of abortion rights supporters chanted and held signs during the march. Phoebe Blanding’s sign read “Keep your laws off my body.” The 17-year-old said she wanted to represent people who believe women have a right to choose and make sure that voice was being heard in Olympia.
It was also a chance for abortion opponents to hear from legislators, religious leaders and organizers.
Jack Bleile, a 57-year-old deacon at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Issaquah, sported a T-shirt with a picture of his three grandchildren with the words “Choose Life” written below.
“We’re here just to show unity we want life,” he said.
State Patrol troopers estimated the march at 4,500 participants. Organizers expected about 7,000, based on past years’ crowds.
Ending abortion in Washington will take time and has to come from finding common ground and having conversations with neighbors and legislators, said Noreen McEntee Hobson, state president for March for Life.
“This is the civil rights movement of our time,” Hobson said. “We will end this.”
For many of the Catholics in attendance, the day did not begin with the rally. Before heading down to the Capitol, about 2,500 people attended mass at St. Michael Parish in Olympia.
State legislators from both parties spoke to the crowd about how to move forward with an anti-abortion agenda. Several announced plans for anti-abortion legislation, including Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, who said he planned to introduce a bill Tuesday dealing with parental notification.
“Your taxes should not have to pay for abortions,” said Sen. Val Stevens, R-Arlington, who announced she’s sponsoring a bill that would prohibit state funding for abortion.
Others echoed Steven’s call, saying the state should not fund family planning groups such as Planned Parenthood.
Rachel O’Riley, 17, has been marching for the past 10 years. She brought along some of her family, saying that someone needs to speak up for the unborn.
”I’m here to stand up for the babies that can’t stand up for themselves,” O’Riley said.