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Abortion-rights opponents brave snow for March for Life rally

Thousands of opponents of abortion rights gathered on a snow-covered National Mall Friday to participate in the 51st annual March for Life, headlined by House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.).

The participants gathered for the largest anti-abortion event in the country under the theme “With every woman, for every child.”

Johnson and House Pro-Life Caucus Chair Chris Smith (R-N.J.) focused their speeches on

two anti-abortion bills that passed the House Thursday, focused on funding and protecting “pregnancy centers,” which aim to help mothers and prevent abortions.

“Tragically, President Biden, the abortion president, has weaponized the entire federal bureaucracy to aggressively promote abortion on demand,” Smith said.

“The Biden administration and some governors and lawmakers, including in the House and Senate, continue to smear and misrepresent the noble work of pregnancy care centers,” Smith said. “We can’t let that happen either.”

The White House has threatened to veto the bills, and Democrats have called them out as examples of a GOP anti-abortion agenda.

Supporters against abortion participate in the annual March for Life
Supporters against abortion participate in the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Friday, January 19, 2024. This is the second march since the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade. (Greg Nash)

Johnson told crowds at the National Mall that he was the product of an unplanned pregnancy shortly before the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade. He also nodded to the challenges facing Republicans after the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion, with voters even in conservative states largely supporting some abortion access.

“We’re passing these bills and we’re marching today because it takes a lot of work to convince people that every single human child, every unborn child, has a value that is too profound and precious to ignore,” Johnson said. “And we have every reason to be optimistic, my friends, that we can change public opinion.”

The bill and theme of the march both underscore the desire of GOP leaders to avoid votes on controversial legislation that would impose strict abortion limits, but instead find a positive message focused on caring for potential mothers.

Annalize Bachmann, 17,  traveled from Annapolis, Maryland, to attend the march.

She said the number of students from her small Christian high school who attended the event dwindled because of the cold weather, but those who came were excited to be there. She said she hopes the march will encourage the Senate to pass the two pregnancy bills.

“As someone who lives in a pro-choice state like Maryland, we’re never gonna ban abortion in the near future,” Bachmann said. “Hopefully we will. But if there are pregnancy clinics, helping babies, it doesn’t matter what the laws are, lives are going to be saved.”

Dennis Petrocelli, 53, traveled from Richmond, Virginia, and said he wants federal lawmakers to go further than the current legislation and “enshrine in federal law protection for life.”

“What I would say to the administration is if you want to be an administration that helps people, provides for people, supports civil rights, those begin at conception,” Petrocelli said.

Participants in the march walked through the National Mall and in front of the Capitol as it continued to snow.

Erin P. Getz, the State March Director for March for Life, said at the end of the rally that people should consider visiting members of Congress to ask them to support more pro-life policies.

“​​We will never,” Smith said, “I know so many of you, especially over the years, we will never, never never with the grace of God, never, quit in our defense for the weakest and the most vulnerable.”

Supporters against abortion participate in the annual March for Life
Supporters against abortion participate in the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Friday, January 19, 2024. This is the second march since the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade. (Greg Nash)

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