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The 50th annual March for Life offers a look at the future of the anti-abortion movement.
On Friday, for the 50th year in a row, tens of thousands of anti-abortion proponents gathered in Washington, DC, to demonstrate their commitment to “protecting the lives of the unborn.” Originally created to protest Roe v. Wade, the 1973 US Supreme Court decision that established the constitutional right to an abortion, the March For Life has long included prominent conservatives, local activists, and busloads of school children from Catholic schools, all determined to end legal abortion.
But because the Supreme Court overturned Roe in its 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, relegating the power to legislate abortions to individual states, Friday’s march—occurring just two days before what would have been the 50th anniversary of the landmark ruling—was unlike those that came before it. “While the march began as a response to Roe, we don’t end as a response to Roe being overturned,” Jeanne Mancini, the president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, told the crowd. “We will continue to march until abortion is unthinkable.”
With the landmark Supreme Court battle behind them, anti-abortion activists now must decide what to do next, navigating the many competing objectives among the broader movement. Are emergency contraceptives considered abortifacients or not? What about contraceptives generally? Should abortion be permitted in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the health of a mother?
Galvanized by the Dobbs decision, many March for Life protestors expressed having a renewed sense of energy and purpose. Members of the Catholic clergy chanted the “Hail Mary” as they marched past the Smithsonian. Two blocks away, a jumbotron screen replayed graphic videos of fetuses being dismembered, featuring text overlays stating, “This is her only baby picture.” Outside the Supreme Court, people knelt down to pray as women nearby on microphones shared tales of abortions they regretted.
“I just want to say thank you so much to the Supreme Court,” said first-time march participant Beth Eddy, a 68-year-old from Columbus, Ohio.
Marie Miller, a protestor from Texas, tells me she won’t be satisfied until there is a national abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest. Her sign says “Save the innocent baby! Slaughter the rapist.”
— Abby Vesoulis (@abbyvesoulis) January 20, 2023
While former president Donald Trump was the only sitting president to ever participate in the annual event, this year’s speaker list skillfully avoided any marquee MAGA associates, and as always, a number of religious leaders participated, including Rev. Franklin Graham, an American evangelist. Also included in the lineup were Republican Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey, who along with Republican Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, introduced federal legislation that would ban abortion after 15 weeks gestation.