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March for Life organizers hope this is the year Roe v. Wade is overturned


The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a request by abortion providers to intervene against a Texas law restricting abortion rights. Abortion has been legal nationwide for nearly five decades, and almost from the beginning, there's been a movement of people trying to change that. Today, organizers of the anti-abortion March for Life in Washington, D.C., are hopeful that they're closer than ever to reversing the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized the procedure in 1973. As NPR's Sarah McCammon reports, activists on both sides of the issue say a high-court ruling on a Mississippi law expected later this year will dramatically reshape abortion rights policy.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Each year in late January, activists from around the country who want abortion to be illegal come to Washington, D.C., to march, often in bracingly cold temperatures, to the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court. Organizers of today's March for Life hope it will be the last year before the court reverses itself.

JEANNE MANCINI: I'm very hopeful about the Dobbs case and hopeful that the Supreme Court will make the decision to return the question of abortion to the states.

MCCAMMON: Jeanne Mancini is president of the March for Life. She's referring to a case challenging Mississippi's ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which is currently before the Supreme Court. Upholding that law would overturn decades of abortion rights precedent. Mancini's group has been hosting the march since 1974, the year after the Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion nationwide. She cautions that though she's hopeful, she doesn't expect the status of abortion rights to change overnight, regardless of how the court rules.

MANCINI: If they do go so far as to overturn Roe, what that does is return the question to different states so that they have the right to enact what their constituents want. It's not making abortion illegal in the United States, and I think that that's, you know, really fearmongering to spread that.

MCCAMMON: But for people living in places with conservative-leaning state legislatures, the end of Roe v. Wade could mean a swift end to abortion access. Iris Harvey, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, points to a series of new abortion restrictions in her state.

IRIS HARVEY: Our lawmakers have recently ramped up their attacks, and they've been doing it for at least the last five or 10 years, but they've increased it. It's likely that this will be our last anniversary that we celebrate for Roe.

MCCAMMON: Ohio state lawmakers are currently considering what's known as a trigger ban, which would prohibit nearly all abortions if Roe is overturned.

HARVEY: It would completely ban access to abortion in Ohio right away. So we're right at that cusp and are very concerned about it.

MCCAMMON: An analysis by the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, estimates that without Roe, roughly two dozen states would quickly move to ban most or all abortions because of similar laws. Already, conservative state leaders are laying the groundwork for that. The Supreme Court has allowed a Texas law banning most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy to remain in effect since September. During a press conference this week previewing today's March for Life, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron expressed admiration for that law.


DANIEL CAMERON: I appreciate what Texas has tried to do. And I know our folks here in our General Assembly are watching with bated breath to see how that plays out and how it plays out in Dobbs.

MCCAMMON: An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll last year found that most Americans, including a majority of Republicans, oppose the Texas law. But many Republican state leaders say they're ready to support similar legislation as soon as they get the green light from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.