National Celebrate Life Day: Pro-Lifers Commemorate Roe’s Demise, Push for Nationwide Protection for the Unborn

A crowd rallied on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial Saturday with the message that they were united around the fight for full, legal protection for the unborn from the moment of conception in all 50 states.

A young woman holds a pro-life sign during a rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on June 24, marking the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.
A young woman holds a pro-life sign during a rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on June 24, marking the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. (photo: Joseph Portolano / CNA)

Marking the first anniversary of Roe being overturned, a group of pro-life leaders rallied hundreds to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial Saturday with the message that they were united around the fight for full, legal protection for the unborn from the moment of conception in all 50 states.

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, told those gathered on a sunny, hot summer day that while she celebrated the 25 states that have passed strong pro-life laws, “we are in fact living in a divided states of America” where “a person’s location determines if they will survive the abortion gauntlet as we did.”

Hawkins said the country must become “an America where every human being is recognized as the unrepeatable person as they are, with equal rights and equal protection under the 14th Amendment guaranteed, not because of what state their mother resides in or if they are perceived to be convenient or the circumstances of their conception.”

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, addresses the crowd at a pro-life rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial on June 24, 2023, marking the first anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Joseph Portolano/CNA

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, addresses the crowd at a pro-life rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial on June 24, marking the first anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade. | Joseph Portolano/CNA

Hawkins told CNA that pro-life leaders are uniting around the belief “that every human being is a human person at conception" and that the 14th Amendment’s equal-justice clauses should be equally applied to persons in the womb.

“At a very minimum, if you’re running for federal office, you should be able to acknowledge that abortion is a federal issue,” she said. ”We want to see every presidential contender join with us to acknowledge what is so clearly written in the 14th Amendment: that all human beings are human persons and deserve equal protection of our laws.”

Lila Rose, president of the pro-life group Live Action, called the 14th Amendment “one of the most beautiful notes in our national song” and lamented that “when it comes to preborn children we have failed to extend these protections.”

Speaking at a rally in front of of the Lincoln Memorial on June 24, 2023, Lila Rose, president of the pro-life group Live Action, called it a “tragic contradiction” that “while our society celebrates advancements in prenatal care and technology, we simultaneously deny personhood and rights, the personhood and rights of these very same children.". Joseph Portolano/CNA

Speaking at a rally in front of of the Lincoln Memorial on June 24, Lila Rose, president of the pro-life group Live Action, called it a “tragic contradiction” that “while our society celebrates advancements in prenatal care and technology, we simultaneously deny personhood and rights, the personhood and rights of these very same children." | Joseph Portolano/CNA

Rose called it a “tragic contradiction” that “while our society celebrates advancements in prenatal care and technology, we simultaneously deny personhood and rights, the personhood and rights of these very same children. It is inconceivable that we would selectively deny these rights to one group of human beings solely based on their location: the womb.”

Republican presidential candidate and former vice president Mike Pence, who recently called on his fellow GOP presidential candidates to join him in backing a “minimum” nationwide 15-week abortion limit, made an appearance at the rally.

“As we celebrate this anniversary, let us here resolve that we will work and we will pray as never before to advance the cause of life in the laws of the land in every state in America; that we will support women in crisis pregnancies with resources and support for their care, for the unborn and for the newborn as never before,” Pence said.

Former Vice President Mike Pence, a 2024 GOP presidential candidate, addresses the crowd at a pro-life rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial on June 24, 2023, marking the first anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Joseph Portolano/CNA

Mike Pence, a 2024 GOP presidential candidate, addresses the crowd at a pro-life rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial on June 24. | Joseph Portolano/CNA

“We stand for the babies and their unalienable right to life,” he said, pledging that he and his family “will never rest and never relent until we restore the sanctity of life to the center of American law in every state in the land.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA Pro-life America, shared words of advice for the growing list of 2024 presidential candidates: “Get your act together. Figure out what you’re for and advance it. Don’t wait,” she urged.

“We have consensus in this country,” she added. “Start with that and be the president you’re called to be in justice and love for moms and justice and love for their babies.” Consistent Gallup polling shows that the majority of Americans would prefer to limit abortion to the first three months of pregnancy.

There were many young people in the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial, including Katriel Nyman, a 17-year-old from Washington state who is with Students for Life Tri-Cities. She told CNA that it was “really encouraging to see a bunch of people who believe in rights from conception.”

She said she would “like to see more pro-lifers continue to persevere through this” post-Dobbs fight because “even if abortion isn’t legal in your state, you should be fighting for the rights of infants that are soon to be born in other states.”

Sameerah Munshi, a recent graduate of Brown University who is interning with the Religious Freedom Institute, holds a sign with a verse from the Quran about the sanctity of life that reads “We have dignified the children of Adam," at a pro-life rally at the Lincoln Memorial on June 24, 2023. Lauretta Brown/CNA

Sameerah Munshi, a recent graduate of Brown University who is interning with the Religious Freedom Institute, holds a sign with a verse from the Quran about the sanctity of life that reads “We have dignified the children of Adam" at the pro-life rally. | Lauretta Brown/CNA

Sameerah Munshi, a recent graduate of Brown University who is interning with the Religious Freedom Institute, held a sign with a verse from the Quran about the sanctity of life that read: “We have dignified the children of Adam.”

She told CNA that she wanted to make her voice heard as a Muslim who believes, based on her faith, that abortion is wrong in most cases. She said many Muslims followers feel, as she does, that life begins “in the first couple weeks after conception.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person, among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life” (2270).

Munshi said that in the year since the Dobbs decision, “a lot of people that I know who don’t have strong opinions on abortion have been coming out either in favor or against” abortion. She sees it as valuable that there’s more discourse about the abortion issue, and people are “coming to more conclusions for themselves, as opposed to maybe rhetoric that they’ve seen in the news or rhetoric that they feel has been a part of their political platform.”

Jessica Newell, a Catholic student who is interning with Live Action and entering her third year at Coastal Carolina University, told CNA that “it’s so important for people who are indoctrinated by this culture to learn the truth about biology and the truth about God and that they’re made in the image of God.”

She emphasized that the pro-life movement still has so much to do, and part of that work is “letting people know that they’re loved; that is a big step in changing the culture to a culture of life.”

Melissa Ohden, who survived a saline-infusion abortion at 31 weeks gestation, stands alongside her oldest daughter Olivia, 15, at a pro-life rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on June 24, 2023. Joseph Portolano/CNA

Melissa Ohden, who survived a saline-infusion abortion at 31 weeks gestation, stands alongside her oldest daughter, Olivia, 15, at the pro-life rally. | Joseph Portolano/CNA

Melissa Ohden, who survived a saline-infusion abortion at 31 weeks gestation, stood at the rally alongside her oldest daughter, Olivia, 15, and a sign which read: “Babies survive abortions. I am one of them.”

“This was a very personal thing for Roe to be overturned,” she told CNA. “It is a day that we can celebrate, but it has not been a chance to pause, take our breath; it has been a time of continuing to hit the ground running.”

In her work heading the Abortion Survivors Network, Ohden said that since the Dobbs decision, she has heard from “more women than ever reaching out to us after their chemical abortions have failed.” She said it’s important to reach moms who are vulnerable to chemical abortions, which make up the majority of abortions in the country.

Ohden said that since Dobbs, the pro-life movement “has continued to be the side that is providing resources and support, whether it’s in communities, at the state level, pushing for federal policy that supports mothers and children and families in a greater way.”

Her daughter Olivia said it was “amazing” to be at the rally with her mom and called the issue an emotional one because “people like my mom should be protected, no matter who they are, where they are.”

A pro-life woman kneels in prayer in front of the EMW Women's Surgical Center, an abortion facility, in Louisville, Kentucky, on May 8, 2021.

Report: Interstate Travel for Abortion Doubled From 2020 to 2023

Pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute data indicate the states with the highest uptick in out-of-state abortion seekers are bordering states that enacted new restrictions on abortion. In contrast, the Institute of Labor Economics recently estimated that states with pro-life laws will welcome approximately 32,000 more babies annually.