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Marching on after Roe

The March for Life celebrates Supreme Court gains while pushing for legislative change


Pro-life activists at the 2023 March for Life in Washington, D.C. Associated Press/Photo by Jose Luis Magana

Marching on after <em>Roe</em>

WASHINGTON—In January of 1974—a year after the infamous Roe v. Wade decision—the first national March for Life brought an estimated 20,000 supporters to the U.S. capital. Every year since, pro-life Americans have gathered in Washington, D.C., calling for an overturn of the decision that declared abortion a federally protected right.

But this year, for the first time in half a century, the marchers had a new message for Washington.

“To the states that have that protected life already, thank you,” said Ryan Bomberger, the founder of the pro-life Radiance Foundation and a speaker at this year’s rally. “To the states that have passed these radical pro-abortion referendums, I just want to encourage people in those states that the fight isn’t over.”

Thousands of people flocked to the National Mall on Friday morning, celebrating the first March for Life in a post-Roe United States. Banners, flags, signs, and a thicket of other displays crowded Pennsylvania Avenue as the march made its familiar trek through the January cold, past the U.S. Capitol, and toward the steps of the Supreme Court.

As the pro-life movement rounds the corner on Roe v. Wade, leaders and participants at the march voiced a renewed focus on the legislative process—both at the state and federal levels.

“The focal point is no longer the Supreme Court … the battle never stops,” Bomberger said. “It only takes one of those quick midnight votes to enshrine abortion again as a right. We as Christians have to understand what’s really at stake … It’s not enough to vote, we have to understand what we’re voting for.”

He explained that many in the pro-life movement at large don’t understand that reinstating abortion at the federal level is still a very real possibility.

In its June decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, the Supreme Court ruled that the right to abortion could not be reasonably extrapolated from the 14th Amendment’s due process clause. The clause prohibits a state from depriving “any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” That phrase, Justice Samuel Alito wrote, doesn’t include a right to an abortion.

But the court’s decision doesn’t outlaw abortion as a practice; it only removes it from the umbrella of the 14th Amendment. If Congress were to pass a bill securing the same rights guaranteed in Roe v. Wade, the federal protections for abortions could re-emerge, Bomberger said.

Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King Jr., also spoke at this year’s March for Life. She told me the pro-life movement is a matter of state-based leadership just as much as a federal struggle.

“I knew that victory for life was not impossible,” she said. “We have to work together with Congress and the states. I’m a former state legislator. It begins with what we see in certain states, recognizing the sanctity of life.”

King noted that the conversation in a post-Roe world has to include support for the family—not just opposition to the act of abortion.

“We need legislation that will help a healthy community so that abortion will become unthinkable,” King said.

Josie Luetke, a pro-life advocate from Canada, said she traveled to Washington in part to celebrate what she sees as a tremendous victory for life—not just in the United States but worldwide.

“I have to confess that I was very pessimistic,” Luetke said as she marched down Pennsylvania Avenue. “I didn’t believe that [the overturn of Roe v. Wade] would happen. Because in Canada we’re so used to defeat that I didn’t believe it until I saw that decision with my own eyes.”

Being a part of the march this year, surrounded by thousands of pro-life advocates, gives her hope for her own country. She says she will return invigorated to Canada, knowing that change is possible.

While a small group of counterprotesters met the march at the end of its route, the event largely went on unobstructed. Many of the pro-abortion demonstrators’ chants were drowned out by thousands of pro-life voices making their way past the Supreme Court.

Nancy Kilgore came to the march from Brogue, Pa. She can’t recall how many times she’s been to the March for Life. She plans to continue marching as long as she can. Despite Roe v. Wade’s overturning, she said the mission remains the same.

“It’s imperative life needs to be protected,” Kilgore said. “The purest religion is to defend the widow and the orphan.”


Leo Briceno

Leo is a graduate of Patrick Henry College. He reports on politics from Washington, D.C.

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