Updated January 20, 2023 at 8:36 PM ET

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Insisting that the fight against abortion isn't over, even after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last June, thousands of anti-abortion rights protesters gathered for the annual March for Life rally on Friday.

Following the reversal of Roe, organizers changed the path of their symbolic march route. Instead of making their way to the Supreme Court, Friday the rally ends between the Supreme Court and the U.S. Capitol – sending a signal that there are still anti-abortion rights battles to be fought in Congress and in the courts.

"Boy, did we get a huge victory just a few months ago when Roe was overturned, but as you all know, that's only the end of the first phase of this battle," said Rep. Steve Scalise, the U.S. House Majority leader, to a screaming crowd Friday. The Republican from Louisiana has said abortion will be an important focus for House Republicans this year.

"The March for Life will continue to march until the human rights of abortion is no more," said Jeanne Mancini, the March's president, noting that pregnant people can still seek out abortions in states where the procedure is legal.

A former chemistry teacher from Ohio at the march, Beth Eddy, said she was able to come for the first time now that she's retired.

"I'm super excited that we finally have Supreme Court justices who see that life starts at conception," she said. "But I'm also feeling like this is just the beginning."

Eddy said she would support more public funding for services such as healthcare for new mothers and children. "People need to have help to get through this because the woman's just as important as the baby." She also mentioned that she supports exceptions for abortion in cases of medical emergencies, including in situations like the high-profile case last year where a 10-year-old rape victim was forced to travel to Indiana after Ohio's near-total abortion ban took effect.

Public opinion still supports abortion

June's Supreme Court decision did little to sway the American public on the topic of abortion. According to an upcoming NPR/IPSOS poll, 60% of Americans say abortion should be legal in all (26%) or most (34%) cases.

According to the same poll, many Americans see Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization as a politically motivated decision – 66% say they feel that U.S. Supreme Court justices are guided more by their politics than an impartial reading of the law.

Since June, several states – including California, Michigan and Vermont – have bolstered abortion protections. And in the 2022 elections, voters rejected a number of measures that would have restricted abortion access or criminalized doctors.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.



The March for Life was started as a protest against abortion and against the ruling in Roe v. Wade, which was handed down almost 50 years ago. And today, months after Roe has been overturned, anti-abortion activists marched again.


STEVE SCALISE: Boy, did we get a huge victory just a few months ago when Roe was overturned.


SCALISE: But as you all know, that's only the end of the first phase of this battle.

CHANG: That was House Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana addressing the crowd of marchers. NPR's Sarah McCammon was there and joins us now. Hi, Sarah.


CHANG: OK, so from what you saw, what's your sense of what the next phase of anti-abortion activism is going to be about?

MCCAMMON: As you might expect, there's a big push for both state and federal abortion restrictions now that Roe is out of the way. Abortion pills are a huge focus across the board. Anti-abortion rights groups are challenging the FDA's approval of the abortion pill mifepristone in federal court in a case that could have huge implications nationwide, not just in red states, by the way. Federally, House Republicans also want national legislation restricting abortion at various stages, but they don't have the votes for that at this stage. At the same time, Ailsa, I think there's also an awareness that in this post-Roe era, the movement can't just be seen as being about banning abortion. I'm also hearing a lot of emphasis on ideas like changing the culture and supporting pregnant women and children.

CHANG: Say more about that. Like, are those ideas backed by any specific policy proposals?

MCCAMMON: You know, that's not entirely clear yet, but it is becoming a noticeable theme. Here's Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, who successfully argued on behalf of the state's 15-week abortion ban before the Supreme Court in the Dobbs case. She spoke at the march today and called on activists to use this moment as an opportunity to make policy change.


LYNN FITCH: Use it to support women when they are pregnant and when they are nurturing a young family. Use it to make more affordable, quality child care and make it more accessible. Use it to promote workplace flexibility. Use it to improve child support, to make fathers equally responsible for their children.

MCCAMMON: Not a lot of policy details, not clear how much Republican support there would be for those proposals. But just this morning, a coalition of prominent anti-abortion activists and groups released a letter calling on both the movement and elected officials to work for more robust support for programs like paid family leave and expanding Medicaid for new parents. And, Ailsa, another thing that caught my eye today - you know, it seems like the movement may be trying to build a broader coalition in this new era. For example, we also heard from Connecticut State Representative Trenee McGee, who called on the overwhelmingly white crowd present on the Mall today to put aside what she described as their emotional prejudices.


TRENEE MCGEE: May we make room to hear Black women speak and believe them in this movement.

CHANG: Well, let me ask you this, Sarah, because polling shows that a majority of Americans support access to legal abortion. So I'm curious. Like, how are activists thinking about the fact that many of the restrictions that they are promoting are just out of step with public opinion?

MCCAMMON: Right. An NPR/Ipsos poll we're releasing this weekend showed that 60% of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. One demonstrator I met, 24-year-old Jonathan Skee from D.C., called the overturning of Roe the best news that's come out of politics in a long time and says he looks forward to what comes next. I asked him if he thought state lawmakers should pass laws that are out of step with public opinion.

JONATHAN SKEE: Well, it's up to the people. If the people elect the people that want to push those laws, then they consent to it in that sense. If they aren't happy, then they can vote them out.

MCCAMMON: And that's what abortion rights activists are counting on. They're encouraged, they say, by the results of the November midterms. And they hope this issue will motivate voters in the coming years.

CHANG: That is NPR's Sarah McCammon. Thank you so much, Sarah.

MCCAMMON: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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