WASHINGTON (AP) – Sixty years after Roe v. Wade, supporters of the March for Life Friday celebrated Friday that the Supreme Court violated the constitutional right to abortion and declared a political battle unleashed by the court’s decision. President Joe Biden has pledged to do everything in his power to restore abortion rights.
The first March for Life since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June came up with a new goal. Instead of focusing on the court, the protesters vowed to push for action from the building across the street: the US Capitol.
Congress, group leaders say, should be warned against trying to weaken several abortion laws enacted last year in a dozen states.
Tens of thousands spread across the National Mall to speak, with the Capitol in sight, and then to march.
“For nearly 50 years, you have marched to proclaim the basic dignity of women, of their children and of life itself,” said Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, whose office argued the case that overturned Roe v. Wade, told the crowd. “But this year is different.”
Indeed, with the legislative victory behind them and the lawmakers now to be persuaded, the marchers took a new route west of the Capitol, to their destination between the square and the courthouse.
“I am the post-Roe generation,” read one sign. “Get rid of the Pro-Choice Catholics,” said another. The signs read “Love Both,” meaning mother and child.
Tammy Milligan dressed as “Patriot Wonder Woman” and appeared in the crowd. He said he never thought that Roe v. Wade may rule in his life, but the fight doesn’t end there. “We want to make it impossible for a woman to have an abortion,” he said.
At a protest outside the courthouse, about 15 abortion rights activists held their own signs: “Stop Our Bodies,” “Don’t cry for your uterus.” They sang: “Our bodies do not need instructions from priests.”
They were easily outnumbered and surrounded by the March for Lifers, but the interaction was civil and the police did not separate the two camps.
Biden made his comments in an announcement marking Sunday — January 22 — as the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. “The Court has never taken away the most fundamental rights of the American people,” he said. “In doing so, it puts the health and lives of women across the country at risk.”
He said he will continue to use his presidency in any way he can to protect abortion rights while urging Congress to ensure such rights.
The crowd was smaller than in previous years but mirrored several previous demonstrations due to the interest in the event, the number of young people from Catholic schools across the country and the many flags representing different denominations and religions.
“The struggle has changed,” said Marion Landry, 68, who came from North Carolina with her husband, Arthur, 91, for the sixth time. “In some ways you don’t have a big goal anymore. Now it’s back to the states.”
Mike Miller, 59, who is from Boston, has participated in 15 such trips over the years. He said: “There is a lot of work to do.” “This is just one step and in the next step, education becomes a big thing.”
From the stage, in order to show that the anti-abortion movement transcends political parties and races, Treneé McGee, a representative of the Black Democratic state of Connecticut, spoke to the people.
“I am standing on behalf of black women around the world who are suffering in silence,” she said. The crowd roared.
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy offered support in his speech promising that the new majority of Republicans will stand with those who oppose abortion rights.
“When others raise their voices in anger and hate, you march with prayer, kindness, fellowship, compassion, and sacrifice to protect the defenseless in this country,” McCarthy said.
Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, said the march is “a sad reminder of the millions of people who have lost their lives in the last 50 years, and a celebration of how far we’ve come and where we’ve been. The movement must focus on our efforts.” as we enter this new era of protecting life.”
Some of the group’s leaders also hope to plant seeds in Congress to overturn state abortion restrictions. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA Pro-Life America, said she sees the “Federal Minimum” cutoff as 13 weeks of pregnancy when abortion is illegal in every state. What Dannenfelser would face would have left other countries free to enact their own, stricter, more comprehensive bans.
The latter proposal is legitimate because even if it passes the Republican-controlled House, it could fail in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
“We know it’s not going to happen this season, but this is a start,” Dannenfelser said. “It is the duty of (Congress) to listen to the will of the people.”
Without the federal protection of Roe v. Wade, abortion rights have become a state-by-state decision..
Since June, abortion bans have been enacted in Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia. Legal challenges are pending against several of these bans.
Elective abortions are no longer available in Wisconsin, due to the legal uncertainty faced by abortion clinics, and in North Dakota, where the only clinic moved to Minnesota.
Bans proposed by lawmakers in Ohio, Indiana and Wyoming have been blocked by state courts while pending legal challenges. And in South Carolina, the state Supreme Court on January 5 struck down a ban on abortion after six weeks, ruling that the ban violated the state’s right to privacy.
But some countries have seen an unexpected push in this regard. Voters in Kansas and Kentucky rejected constitutional amendments that would have declared no abortion rights; Michigan voters approved an amendment that would enshrine abortion rights in state law.
Biden’s administration has few options after the court decision. Vice President Kamala Harris will speak in Florida Sunday to emphasize the 50th anniversary of abortion rights being aimed at the administration.
“We will see what we can do,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. “Also, it will take steps to deal with this issue.”
According to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey conducted in July, 53% of US adults said they disapproved of overturning Roe, while 30% did. The same survey found that most people think that abortion is generally illegal after the first trimester of pregnancy.
Abortion activists also have an eye on the 2024 presidential election and are canvassing candidates for their views on the issue. Dannenfelser said he recently met with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential Republican candidate, and came away “very impressed,” but said it was too early for his agency to endorse anyone.
He predicted that there would be “mistakes” among the Republican presidential contenders on abortion rights and protections, but warned that anyone who would be seen as soft on the issue would “disqualify him from being president in our eyes, and from having abortion rights. Doing so has little chance of success.”
AP video reporter Mike Pesoli contributed to this story. Recruiter David Crary contributed from New York City.