The mood was more combative than festive among the thousands of abortion opponents who gathered in Washington on Friday for their annual march, the first since the historic U.S. Supreme Court U-turn.
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Even if the high court dynamited the right to abortion in June, “we still have so much work to do”, noted George Muench, a 74-year-old Catholic with a “March for Life” cap screwed on his head.
Like him, most of the demonstrators encountered by AFP barely took the time to savor their victory, their minds already fully focused on the battles to come.
This march had however started in 1974 especially to challenge the Roe v. Wade, adopted a year earlier by the Supreme Court and guaranteeing the right of American women to terminate their pregnancies.
Once a year, in January, abortion opponents from all over the United States marched to the white marble building that houses the temple of law to ask it to go back.
On June 24, the Court, deeply overhauled by former Republican President Donald Trump, agreed with them, giving each state the freedom to ban abortions on their soil, which about fifteen hastened to do.
The atmosphere is therefore “a little more festive” this year, notes Barbara Countryman, 61, who has not missed a walk for twenty years.
The crowd is also “significantly younger”, says this resident of the neighboring state of Maryland, surrounded by many groups of students from Christian schools who came by bus, some of whom display signs “I am the post-Roe generation” .
But for this anti-abortion activist, who prays regularly in front of clinics in her state, we must not stop there: “I think I will come until my death, we must continue to convert minds…”
“The question of abortion is now in the hands of the states,” notes Richard Guill, 50. He lives in Virginia, not far from there, where the Republican governor is seeking to restrict the right to abortion, without success so far with local elected officials. “We hope they will hear us today…”
“Many states still offer abortions on demand,” also regrets Kathleen Pilié, 78. Even if Roe has fallen, “we have to stay strong, we can’t give in to complacency,” says this New Orleans resident.
She is still delighted that Louisiana immediately banned all pregnancy terminations. “I hope other states will follow suit, but for that, it will take changing hearts and minds.”
Because everyone is well aware that the battle of public opinion remains to be won. Referendums since June have all been won by abortion rights advocates, including in conservative states like Kansas and Kentucky.
“The Democrats made it a political issue, invested a lot of money in campaigns, talked about the dangers when there is no right to an abortion (…) but they did not tell the truth” , assures George Muench.
Rosario Cazares, a 27-year-old Texan who came on a plane with her mother Virginia, recognizes that there are difficult subjects, such as pregnancies after rape, incest or among poor women. For her, it is therefore necessary to go beyond speeches.
“We also have to make sure to really help women” by providing them with various resources for free, assures this public health student who hopes to one day open her own “center for pregnant women”.
In the meantime, the appointment is made for next year. At the podium, a speaker assures him: “We will walk year after year…”
But as early as Sunday, on what would have been the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, it is the defenders of the right to abortion who will take to the streets, during rallies planned in several cities.
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