Pro-life advocates honor late March for Life founder at 40th anniversary march

Despite the snow and freezing temperatures, hundreds of thousands of pro-life activists came out for the 40th Annual March for Life rally on the national mall in Washington, D.C. today to listen to a star-studded cast of pro-life politicians and leaders call on the federal government to overturn Roe v. Wade.

This year’s rally held a special significance to it because it was the first without the rally’s founder, Nellie Grey, who passed away last August at the age of 90. Many of the speakers paid tribute to her efforts during the rally, and organizers aired a tribute video in honor of Grey during the rally.

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, the Archbishop of Boston, called Grey “The Joan of Arc of the pro-life movement” during his homily at the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life this morning.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was unable to attend in person, but pre-taped a video in which he stressed the need for a “bipartisan, pro-life majority” in Washington that passes a ban on taxpayer-funded abortions in the United States.

“Of course, defending life is much more than just voting the right way or saying the right things,” Boehner said. “It’s about promoting a culture of life, about understanding that abortion is defining human rights as the 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.”

“With all that’s at stake it’s becoming more and more important for us to share the truth with our young people and encourage them to lock arms, speak out for life, and help make abortion a relic of the past,” Boehner continued.

Among those addressing the crowd in person was Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a practicing doctor, who stressed that we need to advocate for a change in mindset among the American people if we are going to be successful in overturning Roe in the near future.

“I believe that great nations and great civilizations stem from a people that have a moral compass. I believe our country is in need of a revival…I believe our country is in need of a spiritual cleansing,” Paul asked those in attendance.

Paul also noted that his profession has given him the opportunity truly appreciate life in a way that many others don’t have. “As a physician I have looked into the eyes of one pound babies…I defy [the pro-choice advocates] to come to the neonatal nursery with me and look at these little miracles and say that their not going to protect that.”

Paul’s father, former Texas Congressman (and frequent presidential candidate) Ron Paul, is a practicing OBGYN. The Senator was unable to speak at last year’s rally because he was detained by TSA agents at the Nashville airport on his way to Washington that morning.

After acknowledging the cold weather (and thanking the crowd for coming out despite of it), former presidential candidate and Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum discussed the hardships that he and his wife, Karen, face daily raising their youngest daughter, Bella, who suffers from Trisomy 18. The senator had to temporarily suspend his campaign last April to stay with Bella while she was in the hospital.

“Bella makes us better. Bella has made the people thats she’s touched in this country better. She is joyful, she is sweet, she is all about love and that fits so well here today because this movement is not about a bunch of moralizers preaching what is right but about a bunch of people who stand out front of abortion clinics in support of what is right,” Santorum said.

“This country is in search of the truth and they’re not finding much of it here in Washington, D.C. And what we saw from our little girl, a little girl we were encourage to abort…because she was going to be saddled with disabilities and it was going to be better for her, well we all know that death is never better,” he continued.

The activists also got a special surprise this morning when the newly-Twitterfied Pope Benedict XVI tweeted the following message in support of the rally: