March for Life activists set sights on further restrictions after Roe v. Wade overturn

Anti-abortion activists descended on the National Mall for the annual March for Life on Friday. It was the first time the march has been held since the overturn of Roe v. Wade rescinded the constitutional right to abortion. In a report co-produced with the PBS NewsHour, Kaiser Health News correspondent Sarah Varney spoke with those gathered in Washington about what this moment means for them.

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  • Geoff Bennett:

    Anti-abortion activists gathered on the National Mall today for the annual March for Life. It was the first time the march has been held since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending the constitutional right to an abortion.

    In a report co-produced with the "PBS NewsHour," Kaiser Health News correspondent Sarah Varney spoke with those gathered in Washington about what this moment means for them.

  • Sarah Varney:

    Today, in the nation's capital, anti-abortion activist celebrated an achievement decades in the making.

    Lynn Fitch (R), Mississippi Attorney General: This year is different. We have overturn Roe v. Wade with the Mississippi Dobbs case. We have done it.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Sarah Varney:

    But movement leaders and grassroots activists gathered here from around the country say there's still work left to do.

    Christine Miller is from Texas, where abortion is illegal.

  • Christine Miller, Anti-Abortion Protester:

    We have got to take this fight more to people and to people's hearts. And it's more of letting people understand that we — we love each baby, we love each woman, and we want to help them, just to show them that through — through all the difficulties of life, we're here to help them.

  • Sarah Varney:

    So, would you like to see a federal ban on abortion in the U.S.?

  • Christine Miller:

    Absolutely, we'd like to see a federal ban, yes.

  • Sarah Varney:

    Lawyer Nellie Gray held the first march after the Supreme Court issued its 7-2 decision in Roe v. Wade.

  • Nellie Gray, Anti-Abortion Protester:

    The reason I'm here is because babies are being killed in our hospitals and clinics. I can't tolerate it. America can't tolerate it.

  • Sarah Varney:

    Since then, church groups and conservative Christian organizations have fueled the movement. For many, religious beliefs inspired them to get involved.

    Trinity Wicker is a senior at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. She's part of a group of students who traveled here from Louisiana, where women are not allowed to terminate a pregnancy even in cases of rape or incest. Wicker has spent this week in Washington, D.C., gearing up for today's march.

    The "NewsHour" caught up with Wicker yesterday on the National Mall.

    As a young person, help us understand why you're invested in this movement.

  • Trinity Wicker, Louisiana State University:

    Well, I believe that God is the creator of life, and no human should be able to dictate whether someone should or should not live or have a chance at living.

  • Sarah Varney:

    In a movement that is largely white, Wicker says she wants to reach other Black women.

  • Trinity Wicker:

    Just let them know that it's not the right way. It's not — it's not the right decision. And I think, once we inform them more about that, my peers as well, I think that the movement can go a long way.

  • Sarah Varney:

    For decades, the March for Life ended at the U.S. Supreme Court, but, this year, it will pass by the U.S. Capitol and end between the Capitol and the court, signaling a shift in the movement's focus to lawmakers.

    Jeanne Mancini, President, March for Life Education and Defense Fund: We're not yet done.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Sarah Varney:

    Jeanne Mancini runs March for Life, which organized today's event.

    Where do you want to take the movement next?

  • Jeanne Mancini:

    Well, to begin with, it's a moment to celebrate for the pro-life movement that Roe was overturned, so just to stop and to take a step back and to think about all the things that led to this moment.

    So, that's very important for today.

  • Sarah Varney:

    Since the Supreme Court overturn Roe, at least 13 states have banned abortions in all or nearly all cases, and a number of other states restrict a abortion care.

    Across the country, abortion supporters are challenging abortion bans in state courts. There's active litigation in 14 states. Six months after the court's decision, the effect on those seeking abortion continues to make headlines, women having miscarriages turned away from emergency rooms. And, where abortion remains legal, clinics are overwhelmed with patients from other states.

    Still, 62 percent of Americans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to a survey conducted last year by the Pew Research Center.

    Kristan Hawkins, President, Students for Life of America: The fight is not over, certainly. There's still crisis unplanned pregnancies.

  • Sarah Varney:

    Kristan Hawkins is president of Students for Life with more than 1,200 student groups around the country.

  • Kristan Hawkins:

    Our movement is about doing one thing, and that's ending the violence of abortion.

    So, when we're writing laws or advocating for the passage of laws, that's what our intended effect is and that's our goal.

  • Sarah Varney:

    And is the goal too to establish fetal rights nationally?

  • Kristan Hawkins:

    Absolutely. I mean, the movement has always been clear that we — philosophically, there is no difference — morally, there is no difference between the fetus, the embryo, the zygote, whatever you want to call the child in the womb, to the person you are today, and both have an equal right to life.

  • Sarah Varney:

    Abortion pills, an FDA-approved two-pill regimen that safely stops a pregnancy and induces a miscarriage, are used in over half of pregnancy terminations in the U.S.

    The pills are illegal in states like Texas, and Hawkins wants elected officials to crack down.

    So, would the idea be that a state like Texas would somehow prevent the medication abortion pills from coming into the state?

  • Kristan Hawkins:

    Absolutely.

    We have been meeting with state attorneys generals about this, talking about how state official, how state officeholders can hold these companies accountable to stop the distribution of these dangerous drugs in their states.

  • Sarah Varney:

    Today marks a turning point for a movement that has had a singular focus for decades. But that focus is fracturing into competing priorities, as the practical implications of criminalizing abortion take hold.

    For the "PBS NewsHour" and Kaiser Health News, I'm Sarah Varney in Washington.

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