Tens of thousands of pro-life advocates gathered in Washington, D.C., Friday for the 2022 March for Life, declaring their support for the unborn and calling for an end to abortion in the United States. They've been doing it since 1973, the same year that abortion rights were deemed "constitutional" as a result of the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade.
Now, nearly a half-century later, their dreams may become a reality.
This year, the Supreme Court is widely expected to overturn or at least dramatically roll back abortion rights established in Roe when it issues a ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a case that concerns a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
During oral arguments last year, conservative justices on the nation's top court appeared inclined to side with the state in the case. Such a ruling — which is set to be issued this summer — would necessitate a drastic reinterpretation of abortion rights since legal precedents on the issue stem directly from Roe and a 1992 ruling, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, that reaffirmed Roe.
If Roe is overturned, abortion would be outlawed in at least a dozen states, with many other states now drafting legislation to join the list.
Something 'big' is coming
The real prospect that abortion could be outlawed in large swaths of the country has reinvigorated pro-life advocates at this year's 49th annual March for Life.
“There is a very big feeling in the pro-life movement and with the young people we work with that something very big is on the horizon,” Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, told the Washington Post.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life group, told the Post that, for many years, hope for an end to Roe felt “very, very far away," but now, she said, “I see great hope and numbers and enthusiasm.”
“We are hoping and praying that this year, 2022, will bring a historic change for life,” said March for Life President Jeanne Mancini, in a press release.
"You can never really read the tea leaves and how these justices are going to [decide] ... but gauging by the questions that were asked, it looks very positive," Mancini added in an interview with Fox News.
Signs distributed at the rally encapsulated the excitement. Some read, "We are the post-Roe generation," "Dismantle Roe," and "The future is anti-abortion." Among attendees, there was a real feeling that a major step toward an abortion-free America was soon to be taken.
This year's theme for the march was "Equality Begins in the Womb."
"The word equality is often used but rarely defined. ... The truth is that we are all equal in dignity, regardless of skin color, disability status, socioeconomic background, or stage of life, including earliest stages of life. Every life has inherent human dignity and every life matters," Mancini said in prepared remarks.
Speakers at the rally included Christian actor and activist Kirk Cameron, Reps. Julia Letlow (R-La.) and Chris Smith, (R-N.J.), and Down syndrome advocate Katie Shaw. Grammy-nominated singer Matthew West kicked off the event with a pre-rally concert.
But 'our work is far from over'
In subsequent comments to Fox News, Mancini noted that even if Roe is overturned, her organization's work will not be ended. Rather, it will just be the start of a new chapter in the pro-life movement.
"Our mission at the March for Life is to create a culture where abortion is unthinkable," Mancini said. "Our work is far from over."
She said that if the issue of abortion is indeed sent back to the states for consideration, her organization would refocus efforts toward state legislatures, continue to advocate for pro-life laws, and raise awareness about abortion pills and federal attempts to codify Roe.
A more finite, though unlikely, option would be to press for the passage of a right to life constitutional amendment that would finally outlaw abortive practices completely.
Since 1973, more than 63 million abortions have been performed in the United States, most of which are not undertaken for reasons related to the mother's or her baby's health. Since 2016, roughly one in every five babies is terminated through abortion.
But pro-life advocates hope that starting this year, everything will change.
2022 March for Life | LIVE www.youtube.com