Thousands of people attended an annual anti-abortion rally Friday with their hopes raised this year that the conservative-majority Supreme Court will overturn the landmark ruling that legalized abortion in the United States 50 years ago.
"We are hoping and praying that this year 2022 will bring a historic change for life," said Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life.
"Years of hard work and you coming here have brought us to this place," Mancini told the anti-abortion activists shivering on a bitterly cold day on the National Mall in Washington.
"This year is more of a celebration because we know that this year is the beginning of the end of abortion in America," said Joseph Scordato, a 20-year-old from Wisconsin who was dressed as a medieval knight and carrying a giant cross.
"The Future is Anti-Abortion," read signs carried by members of the crowd, who descended on the nation's capital from across the country.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on December 1 about a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks, a case known as Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization.
The court's conservative wing -- which includes three justices nominated by former president Donald Trump -- appears ready to uphold the law and perhaps go further and overturn Roe v Wade, the 1973 case that legalized abortion.
If Roe is overturned, each of the 50 US states could potentially set its own abortion laws.
Laws severely restricting abortion have been passed already in multiple Republican-led states, but have been struck down for violating Roe v Wade, which guaranteed a woman's right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, typically around 22 to 24 weeks.
'Light at the end of the tunnel'
Activists at the march said that if Roe is overturned, they will continue their anti-abortion efforts in the states.
"I am so excited because this might be the last March for Life where Roe v Wade still exists in our country," said Karlie Lodjic, 24, a member of "Students for Life" from Washington state.
"If it's overturned, it won't immediately outlaw abortion everywhere," Lodjic said. "We're still going to have work to do in each individual state and make sure that life is respected and protected everywhere."
Marsha Chamberlain, 72, from Pennsylvania, said she has been attending the march since 1985 and has only missed four.
"There is light at the end of the tunnel," Chamberlain said. "It could be the last march and I pray that it is, that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of Mississippi and that states can decide for themselves to protect unborn people."
Missy Martinez-Stone, 32, from Louisville, Kentucky, said she has been doing "pro-life work" for 17 years.
"I always imagined that I would see the end of Roe versus Wade but I didn't think it'd be so soon," Martinez-Stone said.
"But I know that that's not the end of it," she said. "If it's overturned on a federal level, it's just going to go back to the states. And so we still have a lot of work to do."
"I am optimistic but it doesn't mean our work is done," she said.
Joshua Schulz, 42, from Pennsylvania, attended the march with three of his five children.
"I came here to stand in solidarity with other Americans who believe that all life is sacred," Schulz said, "and to pray for an end to the sin of abortion."
Decision by June
The court is to render a decision in the Mississippi case by June.
Public opinion polls have found most Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
But a segment of the population, particularly on the religious right, has never accepted the Roe v Wade ruling and has campaigned relentlessly to have it overturned.
© 2022 AFP