(NewsNation) — Thousands of abortion opponents rallied Friday in Washington for the 50th annual March for Life, marking a new chapter for a movement that has organized for decades around overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that recognized a women’s right to an abortion.
This year’s national march took place two days before Jan. 22, which would have been the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.
The March for Life was different this year. Instead of concentrating their attention on the Supreme Court, the marchers targeted the building directly across the street: the U.S. Capitol.
Movement leaders say they want to warn Congress against attempting to curtail the multiple anti-abortion laws imposed last year in a dozen different states.
“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 March for Life Education and Defense Fund, said in a statement.
Friday’s March for Life started on the National Mall and featured a lineup of speakers including U.S. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, who won the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that prompted the Supreme Court to overturn Roe.
Some movement leaders also hoped to plant the seeds in Congress for a potential federal abortion restriction down the line.
“At a basic, we want abortion to be not only illegal in America and around the world, but unthinkable,” said Gwen Charles, a marcher from Alabama. “It does come with a legislative aspect, but also we want people to value human life, to see it as valuable from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.”
In the absence of Roe v. Wade’s federal protections, abortion rights have become a state-by-state patchwork.
Since June, near-total bans on abortion have been implemented in Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia. Legal challenges are pending against several of those bans.
Elective abortions also are unavailable in Wisconsin, due to legal uncertainties faced by abortion clinics, and in North Dakota, where the lone clinic relocated to Minnesota.
Bans passed by lawmakers in Ohio, Indiana and Wyoming have been blocked by state courts while legal challenges are pending. And in South Carolina, the state Supreme Court on Jan. 5 struck down a ban on abortion after six weeks, ruling the restriction violates a state constitutional right to privacy.
But other states have witnessed unexpected pushback on the issue. Voters in Kansas and Kentucky rejected constitutional amendments that would have declared there is no right to abortion; Michigan voters approved an amendment enshrining the right to abortion in the state constitution.
President Joe Biden’s administration has limited options in the wake of the Supreme Court decision. Vice President Kamala Harris is scheduled to give a speech in Florida on Sunday, the 50th anniversary of the original Roe v. Wade ruling, to emphasize that abortion rights remain a core focus for the administration.
“The vice president will make very clear: The fight to secure women’s fundamental right to reproductive health care is far from over,” said a statement from Kirsten Allen, a Harris spokesperson. “She will lay out the consequences of extremist attacks on reproductive freedom in states across our country and underscore the need for Congress to codify Roe.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.