March for Life: Anti-abortion activists prepare for the challenges ahead


A year ago, anti-abortion activists gathered from across the U.S. their annual march for life With reason to celebrate: It was their first march Supreme CourtSeven months earlier, abortion rights nationwide were overturned.

On Friday, in March this year, the mood will be very different – ​​one that will reflect the formidable challenges that lie ahead in this election year.

“We have undeniable proof of victory – lives are being saved,” said John Seago, president of Texas Right to Life. “But the public conversation also recognizes the significant obstacles facing our movement.”

People taking part in the march on Washington salute 14 states are imposing restrictions On abortion during pregnancy. They will announce that thousands of babies have been born who otherwise might have been aborted, even studies show The total number of abortions provided in the US increased slightly in the year after that enforcement began.

Additionally, anti-abortion leaders know their side is facing defeat in votes in seven states on abortion-related ballot measures. Even in red states like ohiokansas and kentuckyThe results supported maintaining legal access to abortion.

Many more states are expected to participate in this year’s elections Abortion-rights ballot measureAnd including Democratic candidates in several races President Joe BidenHis support for abortion access will be highlighted.

“We’ve been around for more than 50 years, and I don’t know of any year that was easy,” said Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee.

“But after Dobbs it definitely got harder,” she said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us.”

Tobias was referring to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision in June 2022, which overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

The main outcome of Dobbs was to delegate decision-making on abortion policy to individual states. Some Democratic-governed states – such as California, New York And new Jersey – Strengthened protections for abortion access. About 20 states with Republican-controlled legislatures have either banned abortion or sought to impose new restrictions.

After Dobbs, “I didn’t want anyone to get the false feeling that we were at the end of our work,” said anti-abortionist Brent Leatherwood, head of the public policy wing of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“We’ve gone from one focal point at the federal level to 50 different focal points,” he said. “It may take the next 50 years for us to truly establish a culture of life where preterm lives are saved and mothers are supported.”

Even current claims of lives being saved due to Dobbs’ decision are open to question. While abortions have fallen to almost zero in states with full restrictions, they have increased elsewhere – especially in states like Illinois, Florida and New Mexico, which are closer to states with more restrictions.

Anti-abortion leaders are well aware that their opponents in the abortion debate characterize state-imposed restrictions as a violation of women’s rights and a potential threat to their health.

The theme of this year’s March for Life thus seeks to express support for women facing unexpected pregnancies: “Pro Life: With Every Woman, For Every Child.”

, Pregnancy Care Center And maternity homes are the backbone of our movement,” March for Life President Jeanne Mancini wrote in a recent opinion article.

He and his colleagues have encouraged states to offer assistance programs for needy new mothers – to help them find housing, jobs and health insurance.

Among the speakers scheduled at the march is Jean Marie Davis, executive director of the Branches Pregnancy Resource Center in Brattleboro, Vermont. Davis says a similar center in New Hampshire helped her break free several years ago after becoming pregnant while trapped in a sex-trafficking operation.

Other scheduled speakers include House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.

Mancini said thousands of people attended last year’s march; She’s hoping this year’s march will be bigger.

The participants will be in a “resolute mood”, he said.

JJ Strait, part of the American Civil Liberties Union team working to broaden abortion protections and access, says his position also feels solid, especially in light of recent ballot-measure results.

“We have seen tremendous pressure on the anti-abortion agenda,” he said. “Regardless of their party and other demographics, there is a large coalition of people who certainly draw the line at this kind of interference in their health care.”

Causes of uncertainty for all sides in the debate include inconsistent approach Federal and state courts Has given verdict on cases related to abortion. There have been numerous legal challenges to various state laws banning or restricting abortion, some unsuccessful and some at least temporarily successful.

there is case pending The lawsuit filed by women in Texas says the state’s abortion ban forced them to continue their pregnancies despite serious risks to their health.

In an even higher profile case from Texas, kate coxA mother of two sought an abortion after learning that her unborn child had a fatal genetic condition. Her request for an exemption from Texas’s ban – one of the strictest in the country – was rejected by the state Supreme Court, and Cox left Texas to seek an abortion elsewhere.

For abortion-rights activists, Cox’s case was a powerful example of how dangerous restrictions on abortion can be for women with pregnancy complications.

“Never in our history has there been such an overwhelming response to a case,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “We got phone calls, emails, secret-mails. Again and again, people spoke with awe about him, about his courage in going public.”

Seago, president of Texas Right to Life, defended Texas’ abortion ban. He said the Cox case and the pending lawsuit underscore the need for Texas health officials to clarify what doctors are and are not allowed to do when dealing with problem pregnancies.

Carol Tobias admitted that pregnancy can be difficult.

“But I don’t think onerous conditions should be used to establish state law,” he said. He further said, “In such cases doctors have two patients. They need to take care of both of them to the best of their ability.

All of the new restrictions make exceptions to allow abortion if deemed necessary to save the life of the mother. There is disagreement in the anti-abortion movement over additional exceptions – for example, in cases of rape and incest, or when severe fetal abnormalities are diagnosed.

Other differences of opinion have emerged over who should be criminalized by the new laws.

There is consensus among leading anti-abortion activists that women should not be prosecuted for seeking or having an abortion. But criminal penalties are supported against doctors and others who help people get abortions; Texas and some states including idahoTry to prevent people from having to travel out of state to get an abortion or receive abortion pills by mail.

Dr. Jamila Perritt, an abortion-rights advocate who is president of Physicians for Reproductive Health, worries that abortion opponents in states with restrictions will criminalize people who seek abortions outside the formal medical system.

He said, “The impact of his campaign has been devastating – and it will get even worse.” “I am concerned about many more people being arrested and prosecuted.”

One of the biggest unknowns heading into Election Day on November 5 is how power will be divided between the two major parties in Washington.

Abortion-rights advocates fear that Republican victories in Congress and the White House could trigger efforts to impose federal abortion restrictions. Conversely, some abortion opponents – including Chris Smith – fear a Democratic sweep could lead to legislation striking down statewide abortion restrictions.

Such laws – as models in fail Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021–22 — will be “an existential threat,” Smith said.

senator lindsey grahamR.S.C. has introduced a bill proposing to ban most abortions nationwide after 15 weeks of pregnancy. SBA Pro-Life America, a leading anti-abortion group, supports the bill, according to Katie Glenn Daniels, its state policy director. But the measure has sharp critics on both sides of the abortion divide.


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