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Enthusiasm for Trump marks "March for Life"

WASHINGTON -- Hundreds of people from Buffalo and tens of thousands from around the country marched Friday as they have on a January day each year for 44 years, united in their belief that the Supreme Court committed a grievous sin when it legalized abortion in 1973.

Marching this time in a blustery wind, the attendees at the annual March for Life walked with a spring in their step -- all because they feel that the new president and vice president are with them in spirit.

"I am hopeful for the first time in many years,"  Cheryl Zielen-Ersing, 52, of West Falls, said at a pre-march breakfast sponsored by the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.

"I think everyone is ecstatic. Everyone is upbeat," said Stasia Zoladz Vogel, the longtime president of the Buffalo Regional Right to Life Committee.

The first week of the Donald J. Trump administration gave anti-abortion activists plenty to get excited about.

First, Trump issued an executive order barring non-government organizations that discuss or advocate abortions overseas from receiving U.S. foreign aid.

Then the heavily Republican House passed legislation that would ban abortion coverage in insurance plans sold on state exchanges.

And then the administration announced that Trump had asked Vice President Mike Pence to speak at the noontime rally Friday.

“We will not grow weary,” Pence told the crowd. “We will not rest, until we restore a culture of life in America for ourselves and our posterity.”

Pence was the highest-level administration official ever to address a March for Life, but he wasn't the only one. Presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway spoke as well, saying: "This is a new day, a new dawn for life."

That's certainly the way the crowd felt about it.

"I'm very excited," said Mary Puszert, 62, of Cheektowaga. "I hope I'm not excited in vain."

Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, told the crowd she has four main hopes from the new administration and the new Congress.

She wants Congress to pass a law banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

She wants Congress to make permanent the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding for abortions performed in the United States.

She wants an end to funding for Planned Parenthood unless the group stops performing abortions.

And she wants Trump to appoint antiabortion justices to the Supreme Court.

Trump has vowed to do just that, starting next week when he unveils his choice to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

"That's where it's at -- the Supreme Court," said Vogel, noting that only a pro-life Supreme Court can overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion.

Vogel said she was elated with Trump's election, saying she admires his tell-it-like-it-is nature.

"He's somebody like me," she said.

But Bishop Edward M. Grosz, auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Buffalo, was much more circumspect.

He cited Pope Francis' recent comments about the new president, in which the pontiff said: “I don’t like to get ahead of myself nor judge people prematurely. We will see how he acts, what he does, and then I will have an opinion.”

Grosz acknowledged that Trump -- who is noted for attacking opponents on Twitter rather than turning the other cheek -- doesn't appear to always reflect Christian principles.

"But people can change," the bishop said.

About 300 people from Buffalo boarded buses to the march sponsored by the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, and about 100 others joined the diocesan group after traveling to Washington by car or plane, said Cheryl Calire, director of pro-life activities at the diocese. The Buffalo Regional Right to Life Committee also sponsored a bus to the event.

A crowd estimate was not available, but the crowd for the annual event appeared to be its usual size and far smaller than last week's Women's March on Washington.

And while pro-life activists seemed more enthusiastic than usual, reproductive rights advocates said they're ready to oppose the new president and the Republican Congress.

"This rolling back of reproductive rights is clearly not in line with the views of the majority of Americans, and it will not go unchallenged," said Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation.

Michelle Casey, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York, said the Republican agenda threatens women's access to health care.

She said her agency might have to close some of its health care centers if the federal government stopped funding the agency, which gets about a third of its funding from Washington, with most of it being part of the Medicaid program for lower-income Americans.

She said last week's women's march showed that most Americans do not support the Trump agenda.

"I think that we saw an outpouring of support last weekend," she said. "It was an overwhelming display of unity in support of women and social justice causes."

But Kevin Upendran, a second-year seminarian at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora who attended the march, said he takes a very different view of social justice causes.

"Social justice issues fail if you don't have respect for life," he said. "So if we put life first, the social justice issues just click in."


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