WASHINGTON — Anti-abortion activists gathered on the National Mall Friday for the March for Life, a rally held every January since 1974 to protest Roe v. Wade.
This year, for the first time, they were there to celebrate its demise. Once Roe was defeated, senior leaders of the movement emphasized that this was an opportunity for new ideas, organizations, and voices to arise and inject new energy into the struggle.
“This was the beginning of a whole new pro-life movement,” said Susan B. Marjorie Tannenfelser, president of Anthony Pro-Life America, told the New York Times shortly before the show began. “Our workload has increased 50-fold.” His organization’s priorities, he said, include passing potential anti-abortion state legislation and working to elect a “fight-ready” anti-abortion candidate in the 2024 presidential election.
Activists across the country said they were anticipating the first major rally since the Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion last summer, the culmination of five decades of activism. Historically, the march served as an occasion to strategize, socialize, and make new connections with other activists.
House Majority Leader Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana encouraged attendees to call on their senators to support the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act passed by the Republican-led House last week. Bill can Doctors who perform abortions should be criminally punishedA live birth should be resuscitated during an attempted abortion.
“When you’re in a battle, it’s important to focus on what your mission is, but it’s more important that we celebrate victories every step of the way,” said Mr. Scalise said, praising young activists in particular for their commitment. “The next phase begins now.”
Representative Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey and co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, thanked Justice Samuel Alito from the podium. “We have an inscribed call to protect life,” he said.
Prominent anti-abortion figures mingled with the crowd near the stage, including Frank Pavone of Breasts for Life, recently an activist. Removed from the priesthood by the Vatican after being found guilty of disobedience and “defamatory communications on social media”.
Actor Jonathan Rumi plays Jesus Popular Christian Drama “The Chosen One” There was a standing ovation from the crowd. He delivered a wide-ranging and articulate religious address to “General Z and General Alpha” in which he exhorted them to pray the rosary, use their resources to protect their values, and “resist attacks on the family system and sanctity.” Life.”
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Last summer some enthusiasts hoped it would be the party of their century A critical moment for movement. After significant losses in the midterm elections, Republican lawmakers Struggling with what it means to be “pro-life.” In the post-Roe political landscape. Including other culture-war issues Debates on gender, take up oxygen on the right. and former President Donald J. Trump, became The first sitting president to address the parade In person in 2020, it seems to be out of action now Accusing “Abortion Issue” Republicans’ Losses in Midterms and Flogging of evangelical leaders For not being loyal enough to him.
Presidential politics were largely offstage on Friday. Franklin Graham, Mr. During Trump’s presidency, his top evangelical supporter, Mr. He thanked both Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence in his final prayer.
Many activists say they see the reset as a positive.
“Dobbs has provided an incredible opportunity for innovation in the pro-life movement, particularly at the state level,” Brent Leatherwood said of the Supreme Court case that overturned Roe. As chairman of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, Mr. Leatherwood was elected last fall.
Mr. Leatherwood was there. One of its first projects was a curriculum on abortion and other “life issues,” distributed by churches. The group was founded by Lauren McAfee, granddaughter of the founders of Hobby Lobby.
While the march brought out many pillars of the movement, it also attracted some newcomers.
Holly Shelton said she had an abortion at age 18 in her home state of Arkansas. On Friday morning, she joined the March for Life for the first time, carrying a sign that read, “I regret my abortion.”
Nearly three decades after her abortion, Ms. Sheldon, a therapist, moved to Washington with her college-age daughter.
“It’s a new thing for me,” Ms. Shelton said. “I think today is the beginning of my recovery.”
Veronica de la Cruz, 29, has been participating in the March for Life every year for the past decade. This year, she joined a group of secondary school students from the Institute of the Incarnate Word, a Catholic group.
He hopes Roe’s reversal will change the mindset of the next generation of Catholics, so that young people want to reject abortion, regardless of the practice’s legal status.
“We want laws to change, but more importantly people’s perspective needs to change,” he said. “It’s about a moral law, and our young people don’t have this knowledge.”
Julia Sadiq marched with about 30 students from Cedarville University in Ohio, where she is the vice president of the Student for Life chapter. This is the first time in the parade.
Ms. Sadiq said Rowe’s decision has not dampened her enthusiasm for work, including organizing volunteers at a local pregnancy resource center. “Women need help more than ever,” she said.
As crowds lined the street between the U.S. Capitol and the Supreme Court, the mood was euphoric. “Celebration” from Kool & the Gang was joined by the sounds of a portable speaker with a Catholic school choir singing “Amazing Grace.” Other groups recited the Lord’s Prayer, “Sha na na, na na na, hey, ro, goodbye!” They sang that. The “MAGA rapper,” known as Forgiato Blow, wore a sweatshirt that read “TRUMPS NEPHEW” and posed for photos along the way with teenage fans.
At other events across the city, anti-abortion activists socialized and made new connections.
Herb Geraghty, 26, executive director of Rehumanize International, used the march to relaunch the Gay and Lesbian Pro-Life Alliance as the Rainbow Pro-Life Alliance.
“If we’re not welcomed by the mainstream movement, we’ll create our own space,” he said, adding that the growing Gen Z presence in the anti-abortion movement “I’m an optimist.”
Rehumanize International, which opposes abortion and the death penalty, is holding a karaoke fundraiser Friday night at a bar after party. (Vegetarian options will be available, and the invitation notes that the venue has gender-neutral bathrooms.)
Abigail Bongiorno, an attorney with the Thomas More Society, a conservative law firm that represents anti-abortion clients, said she was pleased with the presence of so many young people.
“The number of people I’ve seen already, the number of young women here, it’s absolutely amazing,” she said.
On Sunday, in Ms. Bongiorno’s home state of Wisconsin, in 2017 Mr. She will be the main host of the annual Women’s March, created to protest Trump’s inauguration. This year’s Women’s March will focus on protecting abortion access. .
Rachel Carmona, executive director of the Women’s March, called Roe’s demise “a loss wrapped in a win” for Republicans as they are forced to compete with newly energized voters who support abortion access.
The group Catholics for Choice papered the parade route with flyers bearing slogans supporting abortion rights. Other activists interrupted the Friday morning prayer service associated with the march, chanting “protect abortion access.”
Nadine Seiler stood with a friend on a street corner across from the National Mall Friday for a lonely protest called the March for Life.
“I’m disappointed in the pro-abortion side,” he said. He believes the mainstream abortion rights movement has not mobilized as much as the opposition has. She shook her head at the growing marching crowd.
“We don’t pretend like this. “They keep coming out in numbers, and they keep engaging supporters,” he said. “It took them 49 years, but they destroyed our rights and made everyone with a uterus second-class citizens.”