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Pro-life Advocates at 50th ‘March for Life’ Celebrate, Prepare for State-level Battles

Anti-abortion demonstrators at the March for Life, Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, in Washington.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

The Banner has a subscription to republish articles from Religion News Service. This story combines parts of two articles from RNS; the first four paragraphs from a story by Jack Jenkins published on Jan. 20; and paragraphs 5-13 from a story by Adelle M. Banks and Jack Jenkins published Jan. 19.

Thousands assembled on Friday (Jan. 20) to participate in the 2023 March for Life, an annual demonstration against abortion and in support of life in the womb on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. This year crowds celebrated the fall of Roe v. Wade, the June 24, 2022, Supreme Court decision that returned the regulation or prohibition of abortion to the state level. March attendees also expressed resolve as the abortion debate moves to the states.

Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, opened up the 50th iteration of the rally by noting it was the “first march in post-Roe America,” prompting cheers from the crowd. But she was quick to dispel any notion that the anti-abortion movement has slowed following the Supreme Court’s decision to end almost five decades of nationwide abortion access.

“We will march until abortion is unthinkable,” Mancini said, sparking another roar of approval from attendees.

The event, which appeared to have roughly the same size crowds as past versions, was framed as something of a pivot point for the broader pro-life movement. It was present in the day’s theme—“Next Steps: Marching into a Post-Roe America”—and Mancini made a point of promoting smaller versions of the march scheduled to take place in certain states later this year.

In North Carolina, where abortion is permitted through 20 weeks of pregnancy, about 1,000 anti-abortion protesters descended on Raleigh to pray and march past the governor’s house, for the state’s 25th annual March for Life.

“Because of the overturn—thank God—of Roe versus Wade, now it’s on the state level,” said Angela Harrigan, who traveled by bus with dozens of others from St. Therese Catholic Church in Mooresville, where she is a Respect Life Committee co-chair. “We want our actions to be witnessed at a state level, that we’re for life and Jesus is the author of life.”

In Michigan, where voters approved Proposal 3, a constitutional amendment preserving the state’s abortion rights, in November, pro-life advocates say the energy spent fighting the proposal afforded them less time to organize to attend the national march this year. 

“We had amazing, really pro-life laws that, with the overturning of Roe, would go into effect,” said Kathleen Wilson, who coordinates the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Pro-Life and Project Rachel Ministries. “So we went from fighting for that and having so many great laws in place, to now being one of the most extreme permissive states with what’s in our constitution.” She described the success of Proposal 3 as “kind of a gut punch.”

Christen Pollo, executive director of Protect Life Michigan, planned to attend the national march but is also intent on showing the governor and legislators “that we are not giving up in the wake of Proposal 3” with a significant turnout for the Roe v. Wade Memorial March at the state Capitol on Jan. 28.

“My organization usually takes three busloads of college students, and we didn’t this year,” she said of the national march. “We’re actually holding one in Michigan now to represent the fact that this battle has now returned to the state. So I’m interested in seeing what the crowd sizes will be like this weekend, given that I know many states are doing that same thing.”

Ten years ago, when she was new to her role, Mancini, the national March for Life president, said she expected marchers to continue their annual pilgrimage to Washington “until we work ourselves out of a job.” But days before the national gathering, Mancini said the mission is far from complete. 

“The pro-life movement has just experienced a major victory in the fall of Roe v. Wade, but our work to build a culture of life is far from complete,” she told Religion News Service in a statement. “Those next steps include working to advance legal protections for the unborn at the state and federal level, and the continuation of the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., coupled with the expansion of the State March program.”

March for Life currently lists six state marches on its website—from California to Virginia—and other statewide events are continuing or planned by other groups.

State anti-abortion activists who spoke to RNS in the run-up to the national march said their work on the ground will continue, including their push to raise funds for pregnancy crisis centers that aid women with unexpected pregnancies and to offer support for both women and men who have been affected by decisions to have an abortion.

©  2023 Religion News Service

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