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It's cold and snowing in D.C. But the March for Life goes on — after Roe ends

Updated January 19, 2024 at 8:17 PM ET

Thousands of anti-abortion activists met Friday on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for the 51st annual March for Life — the second such rally since the end of Roe v. Wade in America.

Marchers young and old from across the country braved dropping temps — around 30 degrees Fahrenheit by early afternoon — and, at times, heavy snowfall to carry signs and handmade posters with anti-abortion slogans on a route that brought them past the U.S. Capitol building and the Supreme Court.

It was there that judges in 2022 overturned Roe v. Wade in a ruling that ended federal protection for abortion access. Whilelast year's March for Life event served as more of a victory lap after that decision, organizers and marchers came to D.C. this year with a renewed focus on what's next for their cause. This as the country is months away from a presidential election in which abortion issues will likely weigh heavily for voters.

"We are not done. We will keep marching every January at the national level, as well as in our states, until our nation's laws reflect the basic truth that all human life is created equal and is worthy of protection," said March for Life president Jeanne Mancini during a rally before marchers paraded through downtown D.C.

"We will march until abortion is unthinkable," Mancini said. It's a phrase that was often repeated by other speakers and rallygoers.

And that means turning attention to changing state laws to further restrict abortion access, event organizers and other speakers indicated.

When Roe was overturned, the decision regarding abortion access fell to respective states. Since then,more than a dozen states have enacted total or near-total abortion bans. Others are seeing their restrictive policies challenged in court.

Marchers like Kathy Johnston, who traveled to D.C. from Ohio, think the Dobbs decision didn't go far enough.

"But I think that we were all aware that it was just going to move it from a national level to a state level and that the fight wasn't done," she said, adding that the issue over abortion access is now rightly placed at the state level.

An anti-abortion activist uses a megaphone during the annual March for Life at Capitol Hill on Friday in Washington, D.C.
Mariam Zuhaib / AP
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AP
An anti-abortion activist uses a megaphone during the annual March for Life at Capitol Hill on Friday in Washington, D.C.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court overturning the constitutional right to abortion, there's also been a concerted effort among abortion rights activists to take the issue directly to voters via ballot initiatives and other measures to enshrine protections in state law.

States like Ohio have put abortion rights on the ballot for voters to decide. In instances where this has happened, anti-abortion advocates have lost. Last November, Ohio voters approved an amendment to their state constitution to guarantee the right to abortion and other reproductive rights.

This is why anti-abortion activists are still gearing up for a "long, long struggle" to stop abortion, said marcher Leszek Syski, from Maryland, who was attending his 50th March for Life rally.

"Ultimately, we don't want to just make abortion illegal," he said. "We want to make an unthinkable."

Anti-abortion activists attend the annual March for Life in front of the Supreme Court on Friday in Washington.
Mariam Zuhaib / AP
/
AP
Anti-abortion activists attend the annual March for Life in front of the Supreme Court on Friday in Washington.

Other March for Life participants, like Julie Womer, from Iowa, still believes action from the federal government to restrict abortion across the board is the ideal future for anti-abortion supporters like herself.

"It would be great if life was protected at a national level, and each state didn't have to figure it out on their own," Womer said. "But I think in the time being, if states are able to protect life in their state, that's a big step forward as well."

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Jaclyn Diaz
Jaclyn Diaz is a reporter on Newshub.