WASHINGTON, D.C. — Thousands of pro-life activists gathered at our nation’s capitol Friday to celebrate the Supreme Court’s overturning of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and advocate for the unborn. It was the 50th anniversary of the grassroots-organized March for Life and the first since the overturning of Roe in June. Despite such a monumental victory and the fulfillment of a key goal, the pro-life movement’s work is not over, as organizers must now fight for pro-life protections at the state level.
Despite the cold weather, the energy on the ground was palpable. Joyful marchers buzzed around the pre-march rally, confident that if Roe could be overturned, one day abortion would become illegal. That said, the crowd was solemnly aware that its fight is just beginning.
“I’ve been to the March for Life several times but I especially wanted to come this year to celebrate the end of Roe,” Lori, a pro-life activist who traveled from Arizona, told The Federalist. “But we can’t stop fighting now. This is when it really gets tough. We can’t let our guard down.”
President of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America Marjorie Dannenfelser told The Federalist that the pro-life movement must work on establishing a federal limit for abortion to serve as a minimum protection for the unborn, reminiscent of most European countries that ban the procedure after 12 or 15 weeks (“We’re complete outliers compared to the rest of the world,” Dannenfelser said), as well as passing pro-life legislation at the state level and once again electing a pro-life president.
“There is no federal standard established and it gives the other side the power again on the federal level to start to undo everything that we worked for for 50 years,” Dannenfelser said. She also reiterated that Republicans cannot shy away from defining the abortion debate as they did during the 2022 midterms in the wake of the Dobbs decision.
“What [GOP] candidates need to do is define their position and contrast it with the extremism of the other side,” Dannenfelser said. “The most morally wrong and non-strategic thing to do is pretend like the issue isn’t happening and then stick your head in the sand and hope it goes away. You talk about inflation and tax deductions and then they get to define you as a heartless person who wants women to die.”
Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, also emphasized that Republicans shouldn’t be shying away from the abortion debate.
“It was a mistake in the last election cycle that candidates ran away from the life issue. They let themselves be defined by the other side,” Nance told The Federalist. “Almost 70 percent of Americans think that abortion shouldn’t be legal after the first trimester, which is not in line with the majority of left-leaning states. So Republicans shouldn’t run from the issue; they need to define the other side as extremist because the majority of Americans agree with that.”
Both women emphasized that the pro-life movement must be as strategic as possible in achieving its goals, which means taking as many “incremental” wins as possible.
“You have to have a state-by-state strategy,” Nance said. “The strategy in California won’t be the same as in Arizona, so you have to be very specific. There’s some things you can do across the board but the goal is to limit abortion as much as you can and protect the largest number of babies possible. If it’s incremental, it’s incremental.”
Abigail Dejarnatt, an organizer with Counteract USA, a Christian pro-life group based in northwest Arkansas, told The Federalist she is in favor of incrementalism so as to use that time to change hearts and minds on the issue of abortion.
“We believe that the fight for life isn’t over until not only is abortion illegal in all 50 states, but the thought of aborting a baby is absolutely abhorrent,” she said.
Dejarnatt also told The Federalist the pro-life movement must make helping pregnant women a priority so they don’t think Planned Parenthood is their only option. In a media call Wednesday, Dannenfelser told reporters that pro-lifers and the GOP must focus on increasing funding for pregnancy care centers, especially in states with the most restrictive abortion laws. Initiatives like Texas’ $100 million “Alternatives to Abortion” program — which funnels state dollars to pregnancy centers across the state — is one such example.
“I think the GOP has to do a lot better at understanding that these are real women, real people, and provide them with the necessary resources,” Dejarnatt said.