WASHINGTON — Anti-abortion activists gathered on the National Mall Friday for the March for Life, a rally held every January since 1974 to protest Roe v. Wade.
This year, for the first time, they were there to celebrate its demise. And the defeat of Roe also provided an opportunity to introduce new ideas, organizations, and voices to the national stage.
“This is a moment to define the next chapter of the pro-life movement,” Andrew Guernsey, a young policy adviser to Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Republican from Mississippi, told attendees at a panel called “Capitol Hill 101.” Before the parade.
Activists across the country said they were anticipating the first major rally since the Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion last summer, the culmination of five decades of activism. Historically, the march served as an occasion to strategize, socialize, and make new connections with other activists.
Among those speaking Friday was Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, who won Dobbs v. Jackson, the Supreme Court case that overturned Roe. House Majority Leader Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana is also scheduled to address the crowd, and Jonathan Rumi, who plays Jesus. Popular Christian Drama “The Chosen One” He was expected to appear first at the event.
Last summer some enthusiasts hoped it would be the party of their century A critical moment for movement. After significant losses in the midterm elections, Republican lawmakers Struggling with what it means to be “pro-life.” In the post-Roe political landscape. Including other culture-war issues Debates on gender, take up oxygen on the right. Former President Donald J. Trump, who became the first sitting president to address the march in person in 2020, now appears to be distancing himself from the movement, recently Accusing “Abortion Issue” Republicans’ Losses in Midterms and Flogging of evangelical leaders For not being loyal enough to him after his victories on abortion.
Many activists say they see the reset as a positive.
“Topps has provided an incredible opportunity for innovation in the pro-life movement, particularly at the state level,” said Brent Leatherwood, who was elected last fall to chair the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Mr. Leatherwood was there. One of their first projects was a curriculum on abortion and other “life issues,” distributed by churches. The group was founded by Lauren McAfee, granddaughter of the founders of Hobby Lobby.
While the march brought out many veterans of the movement, it also attracted some newcomers.
Holly Shelton said she had an abortion at age 18 in her home state of Arkansas. On Friday morning, she joined the March for Life for the first time, carrying a sign that read, “I regret my abortion.”
Nearly three decades after her abortion, Ms. Sheldon, a therapist, moved to Washington with her college-age daughter.
“This is a new thing for me,” Ms. Shelton said, gesturing to her sign. “I think today is the beginning of my recovery.”
At other events across the city, anti-abortion activists socialized and made new connections.
At a panel discussion hosted by the University of Notre Dame’s Di Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture the night before the parade, panelists were pleased with the Topps’ success — one compared it to the Cubs winning the World Series — but acknowledged there was work to be done. “Creating a Civilization of Love”
Herb Geraghty, 26, used the march as an opportunity to help relaunch the Gay and Lesbian Pro-Life Alliance as the Rainbow Pro-Life Alliance.
“If we are not welcomed by the mainstream movement, we will create our own space,” said Mr. Geraghty said. “I’m an optimist,” she added, given the growing Gen-Z presence in the anti-abortion movement.
Rehumanize International — which opposes abortion and the death penalty — is holding a karaoke fundraiser Friday night as a post-march party at a bar. (Vegetarian options will be available, and the invitation notes that the venue has gender-neutral bathrooms.)
Ahead of Friday’s march, anti-abortion groups set up tables in hotel downtown hallways, where staff and volunteers handed out pamphlets, wristbands and candy.
Abigail Bongiorno, an attorney with the Thomas More Society, a conservative law firm that represents anti-abortion clients, saw a group of high school students pass her booth.
“The number of people I’ve seen already, the number of young women here, it’s absolutely amazing,” she said.
On Sunday, Ms. Bongiorno’s home state of Wisconsin will be the main host. At the annual Women’s March, 2017 Mr. An event created to protest Trump’s inauguration. This year’s Women’s March will focus on protecting abortion access through state courts and legislatures. The organization’s marquee event will be held in Madison, with affiliated events planned across the country.
Rachel Carmona, executive director of the Women’s March, called Roe’s demise “a loss wrapped in a win” for Republicans as they are forced to compete with newly energized voters who support abortion access.
Catholics for Choice, a group that supports abortion rights, papered the parade route with flyers bearing pro-abortion rights slogans. Other activists interrupted the Friday morning prayer service associated with the march, chanting “protect abortion access” and “protect trans lives.”