Anti-abortion activists convened in Washington, D.C. today to protest the Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, as Republican lawmakers ratcheted up their rhetoric and vowed to step up the fight against abortion.
"We are here because Roe v. Wade is bad law. We are here because we believe it was wrongly decided," said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. "We believe Roe v. Wade has led to a three-and-a-half decades-long holocaust in the United States of America, and it amounts to a stain on our national conscience, and it's time for it to end."
The last elected official to compare abortion to the holocaust was heavily criticized. In 2007, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee told a gathering of conservatives that "we have aborted more than a million people who would have been in our workforce had we not had the holocaust of liberalized abortion under a flawed Supreme Court ruling in 1973."
Most recently, anti-abortion activist Randall Terry launched a 2012 presidential bid in front of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., but received little attention.
Wicker, who for years has attempted to pass his "Life at Conception Act," today announced that he will reintroduce the bill in the Senate Tuesday. The legislation would establish that human life begins at conception and calls for legal protection for fetuses.
"It's time for the 14th Amendment protection to be afforded to the unborn," he said.
The rally comes as the new Republican Majority House has made abortion one of its top priorities and reopened the controversial debate. Last week, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, introduced legislation that would ban federal funding for abortion, calling it one of the House's "top legislative priorities."
Today, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor vowed to continue fighting on the issue.
"Our majority has pledged to institute a government-wide prohibition on taxpayers paying for abortion," he said. "We know we have an uphill battle. ... But I will promise this: the people's House will stand unapologetically for life."
Other House leaders who spoke included House Majority whip Kevin McCarthy of California, and Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas.
Abortion rights activists argue that the current law already bars any taxpayer dollars from going toward abortion.
Under the Hyde amendment, passed by Congress in 1976, no funds appropriated to the Department of Health and Human Services can be used for paying for abortion services. So women under Medicaid are ineligible for such services, except in the case of rape or incest, or when a pregnant woman's life is in danger. But rules on abortion vary widely from state to state.
In March, under pressure from anti-abortion lawmakers who argued that the new health care law paved the way for federal funds for going toward abortion services, President Obama signed an executive order barring any such move.
But anti-abortion activists said current law is not strong enough.
"This country stands for the rights of human beings and yet we've given women a right to kill their own children. So we want Congress to do something," said Joseph M. Scheidler of Chicago, who runs the Pro-Life Action League. "They'll promise you the world and give you nothing. It's a rule."
Droves of young activists came from around the east coast in buses to call on Congress to pass more stringent laws banning abortion.
"A country that is able to kill their own children is kind of a hypocrite country to me," Anthony Rivera, 15, from Charlotte, N.C., told ABC News. "How can you decide that a fetus is not a living thing? If it is not alive then it is not a baby. And if it's not a baby then you're not pregnant. So it's not terminating a pregnancy, you're just killing a life. So how can we have a country that kills our own children?"
Many of those present said they are counting on the Tea Party members elected to Congress to make a move and keep the issue at the forefront on their agenda.
"I think they're trying, they're trying to make a difference. Only time will tell what they really have to say and what they really did," said Amy DeLisi of New Jersey, who came to attend the rally with her husband and two daughters.
This was the 37th such gathering for anti-abortion activists. The first "March for Life" was held in 1974, a year after the Supreme Court's controversial Roe v. Wade decision.