For a prominent pro-life group, recent setbacks at the ballot box have not tampered spirits for the future of the movement to create a culture that protects unborn life in the womb.
The March for Life — the organization and the annual event that attracts tens of thousands of people (at least) from across the country each January — has grown significantly in the 50 years since the first march in 1974.
Activists assembled on the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which effectively made abortion legal in every state across the country. Since then, the march always had Roe as its chief point of protest, but in the year and a half since the Supreme Court overturned Roe’s precedent in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, the energy surrounding the march has not waned.
‘The march for life was born in a moment after Roe was overturned, and there was a lot of confusion about choosing life, and the unborn child,’ March for Life President Jeanne Mancini told Fox News Digital in an interview. ‘We think this particular moment calls for these marches, and that the pro-life grassroots needs strengthening and even a little direction right now. That’s where we see the state march program as being so critically important.’
In the past five years, the March for Life has expanded to the state level, hosting annual rallies in cities across the country organized by state chapters of the national organization.
The state-level expansion is moving fast. In 2018, March for Life Virginia held an inaugural march. In 2023, eight states held marches, and next year March for Life will be in 17 states, and Mancini has plans to be in every state in the union in the next six years or so.
Following the Dobbs decision in June 2022, pro-life leaders and conservative politicians have sought to redirect activism to state-level political battles and focus on creating a ‘culture of life.’ March for Life’s goal, Mancini said, is to create a world where ‘abortion is unthinkable.’
That effort is as much about helping women with unexpected pregnancies as it is about changing laws around abortion.
‘There’s so much confusion about what it means to be a woman, and frankly, what it means to be pro-life. The heart of pro-life is supporting women and wanting what’s best for them,’ Mancini said.
The political fight over abortion does not appear to be going away, and pro-life leaders are far from giving up on pushing for state or national pro-life legislation.
However, pro-life causes have had a series of setbacks in statewide ballot initiatives in the past two elections. Most recently, Ohio voted to enshrine a right to access abortion into its state constitution in November.
‘With the ballot initiatives, we’re learning a lot,’ Mancini said. ‘As we’re moving and changing culture, we’re going to have lessons along the way.’
As many pro-life leaders have pointed out, Mancini noted that public opinion surveys show most Americans are not in favor of completely unrestricted abortion.
‘For at least 12 years strong, 7 out of 10 Americans would limit abortion at most to the first three months of pregnancy. And that’s not our national law,’ Mancini said. ‘Some states do enact protective laws of life prior to that moment, which is wonderful, but our national law is not in line with most of Europe.’
The theme of the 2024 March for Life is ‘with every woman, for every child.’ It aims to address the confusion and show that being pro-life is not only about political fights without regard to the difficulties of an unplanned pregnancy.
‘We see two patients when someone is facing an unexpected pregnancy, and we want both of those patients to fully flourish.’
The Charlotte Lozier Institute released a report earlier in December about the impact nearly 3,000 pro-life pregnancy centers across the nation have had serving women.
The report showed that in 2022 alone, the network of mostly locally-run pregnancy centers provided nearly 800,000 new client consultations, 700,000 pregnancy tests, half a million ultrasounds, and hundreds of thousands of STI tests, parenting classes and sexual risk avoidance education.
Pregnancy centers also provided ‘after-abortion support’ to 20,000 clients.
The centers also delivered $358 million worth of material support for new mothers, including cribs, strollers, diapers, baby formula and car seats, the report said.
Mancini said there was a distinction between advocacy for abortion access, and the pro-life movement. Abortion access tends to prey on women’s fears, implying that those carrying an unplanned pregnancy are not capable of bearing or raising children, Mancini said.
‘The pro-life movement is the opposite,’ Mancini said. ‘We want to encourage and support women, come alongside them and strengthen them; and tell them ‘you can do this. You have what it takes to do this. This is going to be hard, but it will be beautiful, and we will be here with you.”