Though they have marched down Constitution Avenue each January for the past 50 years, abortion protesters at this year's national March for Life will encounter something new: a detour.
This year, instead of walking straight to the Supreme Court, protesters will turn and walk past the U.S. Capitol Building, before ending up between the Capitol and the Supreme Court. The route modification is a nod to the fact that Congress is the new venue for the battle over abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June with the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision.
"That is sending a very clear message to members of Congress that there's still a need for a federal role to protect unborn children and their mothers from abortion," Marilyn Musgrave, vice president of government affairs at the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America told The Washington Post. Musgrave is also a former member of Congress.
Friday will be the first March for Life since the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade and sent the question of abortion back to the states. Establishing a national limit on abortion is one of the new post-Roe goals for march organizers and other anti-abortion leaders, who are urging the new Republican House majority to pass legislation restricting the controversial procedure.
However, such legislation would stand little chance of being adopted by the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Generally taking place on or around the anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling in late January, the national March for Life began in 1974. This year's theme will focus on the pro-life movement's next steps in post-Roe America, according to the organization.
"This year will be a somber reminder of the millions of lives lost to abortion in the past 50 years, but also a celebration of how far we have come and where we as a movement need to focus our effort as we enter this new era in our quest to protect life," Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, said in a statement.
In speaking to the Post, Mancini emphasized the role of the states and the federal government, and detailed plans to expand the organization's rallies to state capitals this year and to have marches in all 50 states in the next five to seven years.
"We will March for Life until the day that abortion is unthinkable," the group tweeted Saturday.
Anti-abortion leaders want to present a united front as they mark the moment, but there are divisions among Republicans, state and congressional lawmakers, and those within the movement on the way forward. The tension is expected to boil over onto the public stage as state and federal legislative sessions get into full swing this year.
Movement leaders maintain they're in agreement about the goal of preventing as many abortions as possible, but some admit there's some discord.
"By and large, there is unity within the pro-life movement," Mancini told the Post. She added there is "a little bit of difference" around the extent of federal abortion limits but said "that's fair for us to work that through as a movement."
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