Why We Still March
An interview with March for Life President Jeanne Mancini about the historic end of Roe and the road ahead for the pro-life cause
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on June 24, 2022, marked the end of Roe v. Wade, decided nearly 50 years earlier. It was not, however, the end of abortion in the United States, nor the end of the pro-life movement’s work. Jeanne Mancini, who has served as president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund since 2012, knows that much still needs to be done — on the federal level, the state level, and, most importantly, the level of hearts and minds. She recently spoke with Columbia about the overturning of Roe and why — as pro-life advocates look to “next steps” — the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., must go on.
COLUMBIA: As president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, you have been working for many years toward a world where every human life is valued and protected. Overturning Roe v. Wade is a pivotal part of that. How and where did you learn about the U.S. Supreme Court Dobbs decision? What was your immediate reaction to the news?
JEANNE MANCINI: The overturn of Roe is a huge victory, and I am most grateful for every person who has marched over the past 50 years! I believe the collective witness of the millions of marchers was one of the many factors that ultimately led to the Supreme Court’s decision.
I was at the Supreme Court building early on June 24 — the birthday of the founder of the March for Life, Nellie Gray — recording a video to send to March for Life supporters. Because I was committed to a media interview at 10 a.m., I left to get to my office across town and was sitting at my desk when Dobbs was announced. Within minutes, I was being interviewed by CBS, and proceeded to do TV and radio interviews all day long.
My reaction to the decision was, first of all, gratitude to God, as well as gratitude to all of the marchers over the years, gratitude to Nellie Gray, and special gratitude to the Knights of Columbus and its leaders, who have been so supportive of the March for Life from the beginning. I was also filled with a deep and abiding supernatural peace.
COLUMBIA: What have been some of the legal, cultural and social developments of the Dobbs decision so far? Have any of them surprised you?
JEANNE MANCINI: Immediately, the people have had much more freedom to enact pro-life laws, which has resulted in 22 states having very life-protective laws — although some are being held up in legal action. We anticipate the net result will be about 200,000 babies’ lives saved in the year ahead! At the same time, 27 states have very few laws protecting life.
I was saddened and surprised by the blatant disinformation spread by abortion proponents and many media outlets in the wake of the Dobbs decision, including claims that women undergoing the tragedy of a miscarriage would not be able to receive health services. Such falsehoods have created an ethos of fear and confusion around these topics that has added much cultural angst. While I expected this to a certain extent, I didn’t expect the tidal wave of negativity and disinformation. But major victories never come easily, and we will continue to battle with love!
COLUMBIA: The theme of this year’s national march is “Next Steps: Marching in a Post-Roe America.” Why is a March for Life in Washington, D.C., still important if Roe v. Wade has been overturned? What are the most important next steps for the pro-life movement, and how do public demonstrations like the March for Life fit into that picture?
JEANNE MANCINI: Jan. 20, 2023, will mark the 50th annual March for Life! While the overturn of Roe marks our most significant victory so far, our work to restore a culture of life is not finished. Rather, it has an added focus. As mentioned earlier, there is tremendous confusion about abortion and pregnancy in our culture, and about what is or isn’t legal. Perhaps the gravest confusion surrounds the lie that a right to abortion is good for women. So long as the human rights abuse of abortion continues, with its many complexities, the need to march will also continue.
Our next steps involve continuing to work to change hearts and minds so that abortion becomes unthinkable; continuing to rally the grassroots at the state level to be able to enact good laws and battle the bad laws; and increasing the safety net for moms and babies, especially by supporting pregnancy resource centers and maternity homes that provide compassion and assistance to women, children and families.
At the same time, we will continue to march at the national level. Many federal battles continue, including preserving longstanding Hyde protections, which limit government funding for abortion on annual appropriation bills. The Hyde Amendment has saved more than 2 million lives and is arguably the most impactful pro-life policy in our nation’s history. Some federal legislators are also working to pass the deceptively named “Women’s Health Protection Act,” which would overturn state pro-life laws and allow elective abortions up to the moment of birth. There are many other pro-life battles looming on the federal level, as well as opportunities to pass life-affirming legislation. It is critical, now more than ever, to be engaged both in the states and in Washington.
COLUMBIA: What is the role of state and local marches around the United States? How is this affected by the differing laws and politics of each state?
JEANNE MANCINI: Now that we live in a post-Roe America, and the ability to protect the unborn has been rightfully returned to the American people through their elected representatives both at the state and federal level, our state march program is much more impactful.
The state marches have a very similar format to the national march. They are held at the state capitol during the legislative session, with an hour-long rally and then a march around the capitol building. For the rally speakers, we focus on highlighting local pro-life champions and powerful pro-life testimonies in that particular state.
While each state is unique in specific focus (for example, California would be much different than Texas), each state march focuses on advocacy and a call to action related to the most pressing pro-life legislative issue in the state. We also encourage the marchers to meet with their state legislators when they travel to the capital for the march.
COLUMBIA: Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly has strongly urged Knights to participate in this year’s March for Life in Washington if they possibly can, in addition to participating in marches in their home states. Would you like to add anything to his appeal?
JEANNE MANCINI: I’m most grateful to the supreme knight and couldn’t agree more with his sentiments! The March for Life is the largest and longest-running annual human rights demonstration worldwide. While I wish abortion were no longer such an immense human rights abuse in our country, the truth is that more than 900,000 abortions take place annually in the United States. And there continues to be widespread confusion about the so-called right to abortion and the belief that it is good for women. Truly, our work is not done yet.
COLUMBIA: Advocating for the legal protection of the unborn is just one way that the Knights of Columbus works to promote and defend the dignity of human life. With this in mind, is there anything else you would like to share with Knights and their families?
JEANNE MANCINI: I am increasingly convinced of the need to pray and fast over the spiritual aspects of the battle for a culture of life.
It is also vitally important that we continue the pro-life movement’s longstanding support of mothers. The Knights of Columbus has been a leader in this effort through its lifesaving Ultrasound Initiative and its timely ASAP program in support of pregnancy resource centers and maternity homes. This, together with advocating for pro-life policies, will be critical in the months and years to come.