March for Life: Pro-lifers consider movement's future after Roe v. Wade's reversal

Pro-Life demonstrators participate in the annual March For Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 19, 2024.
Pro-Life demonstrators participate in the annual March For Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 19, 2024. | The Christian Post/Nicole Alcindor

WASHINGTON — During the 51st annual March for Life Friday, pro-life activists discussed whether the pro-life movement was prepared for Roe v. Wade's reversal as politicians hold differing views about the pursuit of nationwide abortion restrictions and what gestational age to base those restrictions on. 

Attendees of one of the largest gatherings of pro-lifers marched in the snow this year to the theme "With Every Woman, For Every Child." According to the March for Life website, the theme this year is intended to highlight the need to care for women before and after their pregnancies. 

"The overturning of Roe didn't make abortion illegal," Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life Education and Defense Fund, told The Christian Post, referencing the U.S. Supreme Court's 2022 ruling that returned the right to states to pass abortion restrictions. "What it allowed, of course, is for states to enact laws prior to the time of viability." 

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Two dozen states have enacted pro-life protections banning abortions at 15 weeks gestation or earlier since the Dobbs decision in June 2022. 

"So, we work towards making abortion, first of all, unthinkable, to change hearts and minds, but also so that all laws will respect the inherent dignity of the human person," she continued. "We're not done yet." 

Mancini stressed that the United States is still one of the few countries that allows for late-term abortions, even though multiple polls show that most Americans are opposed to later abortions. In response to whether the March for Life supports a federal 15-week abortion ban, the pro-life leader replied that the organization would champion all pro-life laws, whether they're at the state or federal level. 

"The mission of the March for Life is to unite, equip and mobilize people in the public square so that ultimately, we see good laws and change hearts and minds," Mancini explained. "So our mission is to grow our state march programs." 

March for Life began its state march program in 2018, years before Roe's reversal, and it has grown ever since. As Mancini noted, the organization's state march program is in 16 states, eight more than last year. 

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, a national pro-life organization, asserted in an interview with CP that a federal 15-week abortion ban is "not even a push right now." 

"There are a lot of different ways we can go about seeing an end to abortion. Some people say it's a Human Life Amendment," Hawkins said. "Honestly, people can debate forever what that is."

"My job in the pro-life generation is to do one thing: To build up the young people who will lead the charge and to make sure we have an army of young people who come here every year to Washington, D.C., and in their state capitals," Hawkins said. 

The SFLA president stated that conversations about the quickest way to end abortion are happening "constantly," but what the movement needs is grassroots activism and for its young people to be "trained and ready to go." 

"And that's my role," she said.

Hawkins also asserted that the pro-life movement was prepared for Roe's reversal, noting that it has been supporting women and families for years. However, she believes that the pro-life movement can do better when it comes to promoting all it has done for pregnant women and babies. 

"And that's why today's March for Life theme, 'With Every Woman, For Every Child,' is so important because it highlights the work that we continue to do," Hawkins added.

Penny Nance, the president and CEO of Concerned Women for America, told CP that the conservative organization is active at the federal and state levels. 

"Our job is to always move the ball forward and to save as many babies as possible," Nance said. "And that changes from one day to the next as we become more successful in telling our story."

In an interview with CP the day before the March for Life, Robyn Chambers, Focus on the Family's vice president of Advocacy for Children, explained that the global Christian ministry would support any pro-life law and continue working to make abortion unnecessary. 

Before Roe's reversal, Chambers said that Focus on the Family advocated for churches to come alongside pregnant women and equip them with resources. She stated that the Christian organization was prepared for the Supreme Court to one day overturn the 1973 ruling and had started making plans.

"One of the criticisms we've received for many years is that we're only pro-baby, and that's not the case," Chambers stated. "And so our strategy is to really equip pregnancy centers, equip churches to serve her and her child and the father of the baby for as long as they need it."

"That's how to make abortion unthinkable, regardless of whether there's a heartbeat bill or a ban or a restriction or no restrictions whatsoever," she added.

Mancini also addressed the issue of ballot initiatives in states like Ohio, Michigan and California that placed the right to abortion in their respective state constitutions. Mancini contends that one of the reasons these ballot initiatives have passed is because the culture still feels the "reverberations" from the "earthquake of Roe's reversal. She also argued that many do not understand what the overturn of Roe did and did not do. 

Dr. Christina Francis, board-certified OB-GYN and CEO of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, expanded on this apparent confusion about what Roe's reversal meant for those in the medical field. 

Francis told CP that pro-life doctors like herself were prepared for Roe's reversal, as they've known for years how to treat their pregnant patients. However, the pro-life doctor said that many were unprepared for the level of disinformation coming out since the Dobbs decision in June 2022. 

Following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn its 1973 ruling, several media outlets have reported on stories of pregnant women who were supposedly unable to receive treatment for a medical emergency due to state-level abortion restrictions. 

"There's this whole generation of physicians who have grown up in the medical system under Roe, and they need to understand that the reason we were able to intervene to save women in those life-threatening complications wasn't because we had legal abortion," Francis said. 

"It was because we know that it's not the same thing," she continued. "You know, the intent of an induced abortion is to end the life of our fetal patients. That's not our intent when we intervene to save women's lives."

The pro-life doctor cited a study that found over 80% of OB-GYNs do not perform abortions. She noted that the medical professionals assessed in this study had likely treated miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies, and they understood this is not the same as conducting an abortion.

One reason why some physicians in states that have enacted abortion restrictions may be confused about whether they can treat their patients is due to what Francis described as the "political agenda" of groups like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 

As Francis explained, physicians are typically not in the business of reading legislation and rely on medical organizations or hospitals to interpret it for them. She argued that groups like ACOG are exploiting the situation to garner support for abortion. 

Another reason for the apparent confusion is that some physicians may have genuinely believed they were only allowed to intervene if the pregnancy threatened the woman's life because abortion was legal. 

"It's unfortunate that women in very difficult circumstances have become the victims of this very politicized discussion that really should be more about patient care," Francis said.

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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