Some of the remarks of speakers at March for Life 2023
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise
"Eighty different times Nancy Pelosi blocked [the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act] from coming to the floor. [But] the story actually gets better. In just eight days, as the Republican majority, we brought up that bill and passed it through the House of Representatives. That's what difference elections make. It's why you get involved."
Former NFL coach and current NBC football analyst Tony Dungy
"It's amazing to me that God actually used football to shine some light on the subject of life for all of us. Three weeks ago, during [an NFL] game in Cincinnati, something happened that impacted our entire country. A young man named Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills made a routine tackle and his heart stopped beating – right on the field. It could have been tragic, but something miraculous happened. The team's medical staff rushed out and got Damar's heart started again. But … that wasn't the miracle: the real miracle was the reaction of everyone to this. The announcers on the broadcast – what did they say? All we can do is pray. Well, those prayers were answered; Damar is recovering now. He's home; he's been released from the hospital. But what's the lesson in that? Even people who are necessarily religious got together and called on God. That should be encouraging to us because that's exactly why we're here today." (Dungy's full speech)
Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch
"It is our charge today, in this new Dobbs era, to channel that same determination and hope and prayer that has led you to these streets for 50 years and use it to make changes for women and children …. Until we can give women when they are most vulnerable what they need and that their children need to thrive – and until we can make changes in our laws that reflect our passion for all life – and until we can change hearts and minds in our fellow Americans. Until then, life remains fragile."
Connecticut State Rep. Treneé McGee (D) [to the abortion industry]
"You've mocked impoverished communities all while putting clinics in them. You've told me that I can't be black and pro-life because black women need abortion more than anyone. You tell us that we are disproportionately impacted, never giving us our due proportion from the start. You have pocketed off the fear and pain of women and minors who don't feel fit to parent …. I stand here today and I proclaim life!" (McGee's full speech)
Actor Jonathan Roumie ("Jesus" in The Chosen)
"Having lived under a grim cloud of darkness for the last 50 years, the world has once again been given a glimmer of hope. And I pray that with this recent step in protecting life – despite the grievous nature of what we've allowed – that God might still look upon us in His infinite mercy and see the hearts of those of us here in support of life today and say to us in this hour It is good. And it is good – but it is far from finished." (Rounie's full speech)
The first March for Life since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June came with a new focus. Instead of concentrating their attention on the court, the marchers vowed to push for action from the building directly across the street: the U.S. Capitol.
Congress, movement leaders say, must be warned against making any attempt to curtail the multiple anti-abortion laws imposed last year in a dozen states.
Thousands spread across a section of the National Mall for the event, the Capitol Building in sight.
“For nearly 50 years, you have marched to proclaim the fundamental dignity of women, of their children and of life itself," Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, whose office argued the case that overturned Roe v. Wade, told the crowd. “But this year is different.”
Indeed, with the Supreme Court victory behind them and lawmakers now the ones to be persuaded, marchers took a new route along the western face of the Capitol, to their usual destination between that complex and the court.
President Joe Biden offered his counterpoint in a proclamation recognizing Sunday — Jan. 22 — as the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. “Never before has the Court taken away a right so fundamental to Americans,” his statement said. “In doing so, it put the health and lives of women across this Nation at risk."
He said he would continue to use his executive authority in any way he can to preserve abortion protections while urging Congress to enshrine such rights in law.
The crowd appeared smaller than in past years but bore multiple hallmarks of previous marches in the enthusiasm of the gathering, the large numbers of young people from Catholic schools around the country and plenty of banners representing different churches and religious orders.
“The struggle has changed,” said Marion Landry, 68, who came from North Carolina with her husband, Arthur, 91, for the sixth time. “In some ways you don’t have that central focus anymore. Now it’s back to the states.”
Mike Miller, 59, who came from Boston, has attended at least 15 such marches over the years. “There’s still a lot of work to do," he said. “This is only one step and in the next step, education becomes the biggest thing.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy offered support in a statement pledging that the new Republican majority will stand with those who fight for the unborn.
“While others raise their voices in rage and hatred, you march with prayers, goodwill, fellowship, compassion, and devotion in defense of the most defenseless in this country,” McCarthy said.
Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, said the march is “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.”
Some movement leaders also hope to plant seeds in Congress for a potential federal abortion restriction down the line. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA Pro-Life America, said she envisions an eventual “federal minimum standard” cut-off line such as 13 weeks of pregnancy after which abortion would not be permitted in any state. Dannenfelser's scenario would still leave individual states free to impose their own, stricter measures, including a total ban.
That last ambition is an admitted longshot since even if it passes the newly Republican-controlled House, it would most likely fail in the Democratic-held Senate.
“We know it’s not going to happen this session, but this is the beginning,” Dannenfelser said. “It's (Congress') responsibility to listen to the will of the people.”
Pro-life activists also have their eye on the 2024 presidential elections and are essentially vetting prospective candidates over their views on the issue. Dannenfelser said she met recently with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential leading Republican candidate, and came away “incredibly impressed,” but said it was still too early for her organization to endorse anyone.
She predicted that there will be some “fault lines” among Republican presidential contenders over abortion rights and protections, but warned that any candidate perceived as being soft on the issue will have "disqualified him or herself as a presidential candidate in our eyes, and having done so has very little chance of winning the nomination.”