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Roe v. Wade has been overturned but the annual March for Life continues

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This weekend marks 50 years since the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The ruling established a constitutional right to abortion during the early parts of pregnancy. It also froze many state laws that banned abortion, and it led to a generations-long drive to overturn it, which included an annual March for Life in Washington. Last year, the Supreme Court overturned its abortion decision, but the annual march goes ahead today.

INSKEEP: NPR's Sarah McCammon is covering the March for Life.

Hey there, Sarah.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What is the organizers' thinking in going ahead?

MCCAMMON: Well, the march started in 1974, one year after the Roe v. Wade decision, and it was a direct response to it. So, of course, the Supreme Court's Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision last year - with that, the movement achieved its goal of overturning Roe. But they note that about a dozen states have enacted abortion bans in response to that decision. And in many states, abortion remains legal. So activists involved in the march say there's more work to do until abortion is unavailable anywhere. Denise Harle is with the conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom and is participating.

DENISE HARLE: It's kind of just beginning in a lot of ways. This next phase of the pro-life movement is so important and really exciting because there is still a long way to go.

MCCAMMON: So this year, Steve, the march, instead of ending at the Supreme Court, is ending between the Supreme Court and Congress as a sign that they see the fight as continuing at all levels of government.

INSKEEP: What are those battles this year?

MCCAMMON: Well, a lot of them are at the state level. Abortion opponents want to go farther, expand the number of states that have banned abortion. In Virginia, for example, where abortion is currently still legal, Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin is backing a proposal to ban the procedure after 15 weeks. There are efforts underway at both the state and federal levels to restrict access to abortion pills, which now account for most abortions in this country. And many anti-abortion groups want to see a national 15-week ban. That, of course, is a longer-term effort on their part because right now they don't have the votes in Congress or, of course, the presidency.

INSKEEP: So if that's what abortion rights opponents are going for in 2023, what about groups who support abortion rights?

MCCAMMON: Well, of course, they're trying to hold off new state restrictions. They want to protect abortion providers in states with legal abortion and expand access to care. And they're trying to keep voters focused on the issue. Rachel O'Leary Carmona is executive director of the Women's March.

RACHEL O'LEARY CARMONA: We've seen successes. In every place that a ballot measure has gone in front of the people, the people have come down on the side of reproductive freedom and abortion rights.

MCCAMMON: And she's energized by the November midterms, where several states had abortion-related questions on the ballot. That's going to be a key strategy for abortion rights activists in many states going forward. And as they point out, you know, years of polling, including a new NPR/Marist poll out just this month, have found that a majority of Americans support access to legal abortion. So that's a reality that anti-abortion groups like the March for Life will have to contend with as they celebrate abortion bans that often, Steve, are out of step with the majority of public opinion.

INSKEEP: NPR's Sarah McCammon talking with us as organizers prepare for another annual March for Life.

Sarah, thanks so much.

MCCAMMON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.