Thousands of pro-life demonstrators converged on Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C. Friday for the 49th annual March for Life with a collective conviction and commitment to defeating abortion in their lifetime.
Given the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, many protestors were filled with optimism that Roe v. Wade, the hallmark decision that legalized abortion nationally, would be overturned in the coming judicial season. In that event, the abortion issue would return to the state legislatures. That has begged the question: what will become of the March for Life if Roe is reversed?
The consensus among those whom National Review interviewed, including former Governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker, is that the fight to defend the unborn would be far from over.
“I think the march would continue because there will be momentum to put pressure on policy makers to create a constitutional amendment. We’ve got to work together nationally to make sure there’s good legislation in the states to protect the sanctity of life,” he said.
“For so long we focused on the court of law, we’ve got to shift to the court of public opinion,” he added.
State legislative races will become increasingly crucial, he noted. Walker mentioned California’s latest policy promise to subsidize abortions for out-of-state residents if Roe is dismantled as an example of the work cut out for the pro-life movement even if it scores a victory at the Supreme Court.
“In many states it would be a matter of affirming what’s already on the books and making sure lawmakers and governors don’t backtrack on that,” he said. “But then you hear about Gavin Newsom not only maintaining abortion all the way through birth but actually providing financial resources for other people to come in from other states to receive abortions.”
Walker said he believes the current Supreme Court will overturn Roe and that “it’s very likely that Dobbs (v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization) will be the vehicle.”
The bench recently heard oral arguments on Dobbs, which deals with a challenge to a Mississippi law that prohibits abortions after 15 weeks of gestation. The case naturally forces the court to revisit the standard of fetal viability, established as 23-26 weeks under Roe, potentially prompting a repeal of the original ruling.
“These justices have shown that they won’t to go back to the founding principles and to what’s actually stated in the Constitution, not implied,” he said.
Some law scholars have contended that Roe stands on precarious legal foundations because it invented a “right to privacy” not enumerated in the Constitution.
At the march, Michael Nolan of the Diocese of Fort Wayne–South Bend said that Roe’s undoing will not end abortion, so advocates against it will still need to bring their voices to Washington.
“The cause is so foundational to who we are as human beings. I think because this is the national identity right here, I think the march will continue. If the issue goes back to the states abortion won’t go away. The life movement will still meet here,” Nolan said, adding that he’s confident the 1973 ruling will be struck down eventually.
James Bence and Thomas McClellan, of Father Gabriel Richard High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan, rejected the argument of many abortion proponents that men should be excluded from the conversation because they don’t personally experience pregnancy. “Creating and sustaining human life is a shared responsibility between both men and women,” McClellan said.
The pair seemed sure that the March for Life would remain important and would still be held each year no matter the high court’s conclusion.
”We will still need to advocate for life. If Roe v Wade is overturned, it’s up to the states, so we need to show support that we don’t want abortion to be allowed anywhere,” Bence added.
In the spirit of the event’s theme “Equality Begins in the Womb,” Down Syndrome advocate Katie Shaw, took the stage at the rally preceding the march to declare that’s she’s a testament that all life is valuable and that every person, regardless of medical condition, can contribute to society.
“I’m here today in the fight for the dignity of human life of all unborn babies diagnosed with a disability or not,” she said.
While morale was high among participants at this year’s March for Life, it was balanced with the mutual understanding that the mission to end abortion definitively, even if Roe is overturned, will require eternal vigilance.