ST. PAUL, Minn. — Thousands of abortion opponents gathered outside Minnesota's Capitol on Sunday to protest the 33rd anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision and to call for a ban on public funding of abortion.
"We must stop abortion in our state," Scott Fischbach, head of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, told the crowd. "Things are changing in this country."
The Minnesota Choice Coalition planned to celebrate the anniversary with a reception and two rock concerts.
Demonstrations across the country this weekend reflected the growing tension about the issue at a time when the makeup of the Supreme Court is about to change with the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Many abortion opponents said they were heartened by President Bush's choice of federal appeals court Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to replace O'Connor, a moderate who was often the court's swing vote.
Alito's refusal during his confirmation hearings to agree with assertions by Democrats that Roe vs. Wade was "settled law" upset abortion rights activists.
"We have a dream today that someday soon this will not be an anniversary of sadness, but an anniversary of justice restored," said Minnesota's Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
The largest abortion demonstration was expected today in Washington, where antiabortion activists planned to converge on the National Mall to hear speakers supporting their cause and to march on Congress and the Supreme Court.
Many who support abortion rights held a candlelight vigil in front of the Supreme Court building Sunday night, waving signs that read: "Alito -- No Justice For Women" and "Keep Abortion Legal."
The nation's high court made abortion legal on Jan. 22, 1973. But efforts to restrict or outlaw the procedure have been just as enduring; 34 states have passed laws requiring parents either to be notified or to give consent when their underage daughters seek abortions.
This year, abortion foes in Minnesota will try to encourage the Legislature to ban public funding of abortions for Medicaid recipients, which has been required since a 1995 state Supreme Court decision. They are also campaigning against the reelection of a justice who supported the decision.