With Roe gone, abortion opponents at the March for Life set their sights on the next targets

Although the National Park Service declined to estimate the size of the crowd and March for Life organizers did not respond to questions about attendance, there was a palpable sense of relief among leaders against the ‘abortion as they looked at a sea of ​​crowded faces. the National Mall.

“I have to tell you, I was a little nervous. I was worried that people wouldn’t continue the fight,” former Pennsylvania senator and Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, a staunch abortion opponent, told POLITICO. “But based on this reaction, it looks like the base hasn’t moved forward.”

Opponents of abortion are counting on this energy to force state and federal lawmakers to pass laws that further restrict abortion. From Roe fell, access to abortion has been virtually eliminated in a quarter of the country, and several speakers told an enthusiastic crowd on the National Mall on Friday that these bans are just the beginning.

overturning Roe “It was just the first phase of this battle,” said the House Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), the highest-ranking elected official to speak at the March, said to cheers. “Now the next phase begins.”

Scalise was one of the few prominent Republicans to attend. While previous years’ march featured appearances by Presidents Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and many other conservative officials hoping to demonstrate their good faith against abortion, none of the Republicans who signed a interest in running for president in 2024 He appeared on stage on Friday. Neither do the leading Republicans in the House or Senate… Kevin McCarthy i Mitch McConnell – or any Republican governor.

Anti-abortion leaders brushed off questions about the lack of participation from senior GOP ranks, arguing that the march is “the central issue” and “not a political event,” and noting that Congress was out of session that day and the members. be back in their home districts.

While aware that federal restrictions on the procedure won’t become law with Democrats in charge of the Senate and the White House, conservative activists plan drive the GOP’s new House majority to make more votes on anti-abortion bills. And to illustrate this new focus, the route of Friday’s March changed for the first time to pass through the Capitol and the Supreme Court.

“One two three four, Roe v. Wade it’s out the door,” chanted a group of teenagers wearing matching knit caps as the march made its way down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the House and Senate. “Five, six, seven, eight, it’s time to legislate.”

But while House Republicans took multiple anti-abortion votes as some of their first majority action this month, they were on a non-binding resolution condemning violence against anti-abortion organizations and a bill that reaffirmed the rights of babies born after the attempt. abortions Leadership has not scheduled votes on the more controversial measures the groups are calling for, such as a federal ban on abortion at 15 weeks, that Sen. Lindsey Graham (RS.C.) proposed last year. And some House Republicans have they spoke out against the decision of their leaders To address the issue, pointing to the 2022 midterm results as a sign that voters will continue to punish the party if it pursues further restrictions.

Anti-abortion leaders at the March said their next efforts will focus heavily on the states. Groups like Susan B. Anthony are hiring more staff to lobby state legislatures, fueled by what they say has been a surge in donations, and are particularly targeting Florida, Nebraska, North Carolina and Virginia. They are also planning more statewide demonstrations to pressure lawmakers, doubling the number of marches held outside DC from five last year to 10 in 2023.

“What an exciting time to all be together right now,” Louisiana Attorney General Lynn Fitch told POLITICO after addressing the crowd. “But now we have to think about the next steps.”

Fitch said that, along with other Republican attorneys general, it is asking the FDA reimpose restrictions the agency recently lifted on abortion pills, which have allowed them to be mailed to patients or picked up at pharmacies. She also joins others in the anti-abortion movement to push for policies like affordable child care and reforms to the adoption and foster care system; supports that they consider necessary to meet the needs of many people who will not be able to access an abortion in the coming years.

But while anti-abortion leaders say they feel the wind at their backs as state legislatures reconvene this month and debate a series of new restrictions on the procedure, many challenges lie ahead at both the state and federal levels. .

Lawmakers in several liberal states have introduced bills that would protect patients who travel for the procedure and the doctors who treat them from prosecution. And several more states are preparing to introduce constitutional amendments protecting abortion rights before voters after victories in six states last year: California, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana and Vermont.

“I think these ballot initiatives were a wake-up call that 50 years of work could be wiped out in a second, unless you’re prepared to make a real battle plan,” Dannenfelser said in an interview, adding that the your organization and others. we need to “raise our funding game” after we achieve massively spent by abortion rights supporters in those state contests in 2022.

So are anti-abortion groups working to shape the 2024 elections, and have already begun meeting with potential presidential candidates to pressure them to pass and implement national abortion restrictions. But recently they have been feuding with the only GOP candidate officially declared to be leading in the polls: former President Trump.

In early January, Trump blamed anti-abortion groups for the midterm results in a social media post, specifically for opposing rape and incest exemptions and claiming that after winning the decision of the Supreme Court against Roe They “disappeared, never to be seen again” and didn’t work hard enough to get voters to the polls in November.

Anti-abortion leaders called the accusation “way out of line” and “nonsense” and said Trump “needs to correct himself.”

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