WASHINGTON — By DANA MILBANK
WASHINGTON -- James Dobson's Focus on the Family asked Christians to pray for rain to fall on Barack Obama in 2008 when he accepted the presidential nomination. Various religious conservatives have said that hurricanes, earthquakes and other meteorological phenomena were divine punishment of wayward humans.
So what are we to make of Wednesday's March for Life on the Mall in Washington? The temperature was 12 degrees at the start of the annual anti-abortion event, the wind chill below zero, and participants were trudging about in snow and ice from the previous day's storm.
Crowd estimates for last year's event, the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, went above half a million. The march routinely draws hundreds of thousands. But this time, about 25,000 were on the Mall. Piles of protest signs went unused. Faces turned red. And Dobson was so cold he could hardly talk.
"Greetings to all you frozen people," the evangelical leader said. "Your faces are cold, but your hearts are on fire. What a wonderful thing to see this crowd on a snowy -- coley -- cold day like this." Dobson paused. "I can't make my mouth work," he said.
Dobson did not see the hand of God in the brutal conditions. Yet if there are weather gods, they may have been making a pointed comment about a movement that has become frozen in time.
Year after year, anti-abortion faithful assemble for the march, yet their goal is elusive. Gallup found last year that 26 percent thought abortion should be legal in any circumstance, 20 percent said it should be illegal in all cases, and 52 percent thought it should be legal in certain circumstances. In 1975, those numbers were 21, 22 and 54, respectively.
The anti-abortion movement has made progress in states limiting access to abortion. More than 50 such laws were enacted last year alone. But just last week, the Supreme Court reaffirmed Roe in rejecting an Arizona law that blocked abortions after 20 weeks. At the same time, advances in emergency contraception and chemical abortion agents have offset gains made in restricting access to traditional abortions.