(CNSNews.com) – Braving frigid temperatures and freezing rain, thousands of pro-life activists gathered at the National Mall on Monday to mark the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that legalized abortion nationwide and to hear members of Congress, who waited in line for their turn to criticize the Obama administration for its numerous anti-life policies.
The 39th annual March for Life ended at the steps of the Supreme Court where Roe v. Wade was decided on Jan. 22, 1973 – a ruling that has resulted in more than 50 million American children being killed by abortion.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chairman of the House pro-life caucus, said that President Barack Obama will talk about returning to American values during his State of the Union address on Tuesday.
“Mr. President, the violent destruction of children in the womb – killing babies -- is not an American value,” Smith said.
Smith called the fight to end abortion on demand “the greatest human rights movement on earth” and said “abortion is not – and never will be – an American value.”
Rep. Daniel Lipinksi (D-Ill.) said it was time to “conquer the culture of death and spread the culture of life” in America.
Marchers carrying signs that featured photographs of tiny newborns under slogans like “Life Counts” and “Abortion Kills,” cheered members of Congress who spoke out against the Obama administration’s decision to finalize a rule in Obamacare that will force health professionals and individuals to take pay for health plans and services that violate their religious beliefs.
The Obama administration on Friday finalized a regulation that orders all Americans -- unless they work directly at a church -- to purchase government-approved health insurance plans that cover sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives, including those that cause abortions.
The regulation further requires that health-insurance plans must provide sterilizations, contraceptives and abortifacients without any fees or co-pay.
The regulation, issued as part of the initial implementation of Obamacare and that will go into effect on Aug. 1, requires Catholics and other Christians to act against their beliefs and church teachings that say sterilization, artificial contraception and abortion are morally wrong.
“Mr. President, stop violating conscience rights,” Smith said. “Stop violating religious freedom. That is not an American value.”
Under the Bush administration, health professionals and institutions were protected under the Health and Human Services’ “conscience clause,” which protected them from promoting or providing services that they were morally opposed to, including abortion and prescription drugs that cause abortion.
“By removing the conscience clause, this administration is now forcing us to choose between our right to be the person we want to be,” Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) said at the event. “We will now have to choose between or core beliefs – our religious beliefs – and, in some cases, our job.”
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), who introduced the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011, said the Obama administration was “at war” with “people who believe in the sanctity of life.”
After Friday’s announcement by the Obama administration, Fortenberry issued a statement calling the regulation “forced discrimination.”
“President Obama and Secretary Sebelius are using health care for their political and ideological agenda,” Fortenberry said in the statement. “Americans should not be forced by the strong arm of government to pay for drugs and procedures that are not medical necessities and unrelated to America’s health care challenges.”
Majority House Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said at the March for Life that “it is time to protect conscience rights for those who oppose abortion.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was the first lawmaker to speak. He did not mention Friday’s announcement by the Obama administration or the continued funding for the regulation, which was allowed by Congress in December’s continuing resolution to keep the government operating through Sept. 30, 2012.
As CNSNews.com earlier reported, in December, the Republican leaders of the House of Representatives negotiated a continuing resolution with President Obama and the Democrat-controlled Senate that allows the administration to fund implementation of the regulation. That CR, which funds the government through the end of fiscal 2012 (which comes on Sept. 30), expressly denied the administration the funds to carry out some regulatory activities but did not deny it the funds to carry out the sterilization-contraception-abortifacient regulation.
At the March for Life, Rep. Trent Franks (R-N.M) said that protecting the unborn is an issue that should be a priority with voters who will decide whether Obama is re-elected in November.
“In this coming election, we are facing one of the greatest challenges in our history.” Franks said. “Barack Obama is the most pro-abortion president in the history of this nation.”
“He is the abortion president and we must defeat him if the unborn are to be protected,” Franks said.