Anti-abortion activists will have many reasons to celebrate — and some to fret — when they gather in Washington on Friday for the March for Life.
That demonstration, which includes a rally that draws abortion opponents from across the country, has been held since January 1974, a year after the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade established the right to terminate pregnancy throughout the United States.
This year’s meeting – 50 years after that determination – will be the first since it was canceled by the Supreme Court in a landmark ruling in June 2022.
Since then, 12 Republican-governed states have enacted comprehensive abortion restrictions, and many more are seeking to do the same. But often these measures have been offset by other developments. Opponents of abortion were defeated in the elections held in Kansas, Michigan and Kentucky. State courts have blocked many of the restrictions from taking effect. And there are several efforts underway to help women in states where abortion is banned to seek out-of-state abortions or use the abortion pill to end their pregnancies on their own.
“It’s almost like the Old West … everything is just too busy,” said Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, an anti-abortion organization.
At a time when many Democratic-governed states are taking steps to protect and expand access to abortion, Tobias compares the current situation to the pre-Civil War era when the nation was divided almost equally between non-slavery states and slave states. was divided from
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we have something like this for a few years,” he said. “But I know that those who oppose abortion are not going to give up; For us it is a matter of civil rights”.
The theme for this year’s March for Life is: “Next Steps: Moving Forward to a Post-Row America.” Speakers will include Hall of Fame football coach Tony Dungy and Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, who oversaw Roe v. Get off
March for Life president Gene Mancini called the June decision “a huge victory for the anti-abortion movement.”
“But the battle to create a culture of life is not over yet,” he said. “The March for Life will continue to advocate for the unborn and for policies that protect them until abortion is unthinkable.”
The prospects for a federal law restricting abortion nationwide are dim for now, given that any such measure emanating from the Republican-led House of Representatives would face disapproval in the Republican-controlled Senate Democrats. . The main disputes will be fought in the states.
Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia have enacted near-total abortion bans since June. Legal challenges are pending against many of these restrictions.
Elective abortions may also not be performed due to the legal uncertainties facing abortion clinics in Wisconsin, or in North Dakota, where the only existing clinic has moved to Minnesota.
Bans authorized by lawmakers in Ohio, Indiana and Wyoming have been blocked by state courts while legal challenges are resolved. And in South Carolina, on January 5 the state Supreme Court struck down a ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, finding that the ban violates the right to privacy guaranteed by the state’s constitution.
The Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, says the overall result is “a chaotic landscape that is problematic for providers trying to provide care and for patients trying to receive it.”
Elizabeth Nash and Isabelle Guarnieri said, “When people do not have access to abortion care in their state, they are forced to make the difficult decision of traveling long distances to obtain care, having an abortion themselves, or completing an unwanted pregnancy.” is forced to.” , who works at Guttmacher, wrote last week.
Looking ahead, some leaders in the anti-abortion movement harbor hope that Republicans will nominate a 2024 presidential candidate who will push for nationwide abortion restrictions rather than keep the issue a state-by-state situation.
“The approach to victory on abortion in the federal race, which has been demonstrated for more than a decade, is this: clearly specify the ambitious consensus of a position opposed to pregnancy termination and contrast it with extreme approaches from Democratic rivals. ,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, Susan B. Anthony is the president of Pro-Life America, an anti-abortion nonprofit.
Dannenfelser says he is not surprised by the divisive outcry since the June decision.
“When democracy is restored and we have a voice in the debate, this is what things look like,” he said. “For 50 years we had no voice because the judiciary was always going to prevent public opinion from influencing the law.”
“We always knew things weren’t going to be easy (after the overturning of Roe v. Wade),” he said, adding, “We knew that neither side was going to give up.”
Various opinion polls since June have found that a majority of Americans support access to legal abortion. According to a poll conducted in July by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 53% of American adults said they disagree with the repeal of Roe v. Wade ordered by the Supreme Court, while 30% approve.
Professor Kathleen Spro Cummings, director of the Kushawa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame, indicated that the anti-abortion movement may suffer from an image among many Americans that it is more about controlling women’s bodies than helping them. more concerned about. Manage unwanted pregnancies.
“It’s about consolidating political power, more about the children,” he said.
Some opponents of abortion are trying to counter such perceptions. In Texas, for example, groups opposing pregnancy termination are urging lawmakers to spend more money on services for pregnant and maternity Texans, including expanding Medicaid services for mothers.
The state’s new ban on pregnancy terminations has had a big impact, according to Texas Right to Life, an anti-abortion nonprofit organization. It says that state health officials recorded only 68 abortions in July 2022, compared to 4,879 in July 2021.
The group noted that the data does not include unreported illegal abortions, which are widely believed to result from women receiving abortion pills through the mail or from providers in Mexico.
Charles Camosi, a professor of medical humanities at Creighton University School of Medicine and an outspoken anti-abortion opponent, discusses the infamous election defeat suffered by the anti-abortion movement. Voters in Kansas and Kentucky rejected constitutional amendments that would have declared there was no right to abortion; Michigan voters approved an amendment to the state constitution enshrining the right to terminate a pregnancy.
“Abortion opponents have clearly and grudgingly lost the public relations battle since June, and it has shaped the way people vote,” Camosi said in an email. She noted that abortion rights advocates are better organized and better funded, while many anti-abortion politicians have avoided raising the issue or been too vocal.
“However, it is clear that a lot of good things have happened,” Camosi said, citing a decline in the number of abortions in states with restrictions.
“Moreover, opponents of abortion now enjoy the opportunity to actually discuss these issues in an open and democratic context … as opposed to constantly running against injunctions from various courts,” he said. “We may have lost some early battles … but are worth arguing for.”
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