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Abortion foes push on post-Roe, and so must those protecting reproductive rights

Opponents of abortion marched against the Roe v. Wade decision every year on its Jan. 20 anniversary. This year, Roe is gone. But the march is still on.

Abortion opponents at the March for Life on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21, 2022.KENNY HOLSTON/NYT

For decades, antiabortion activists have gathered in Washington annually on Jan. 20, the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling, for the March for Life from the National Mall to the US Supreme Court to protest the decision and demand it be overturned.

Last year, in dramatic fashion, the court granted them their paramount wish. Yet today, they march again — one of many clear signs that opponents of reproductive health care and abortion access are not backing down in a post-Roe world. They are amping up efforts with a new focus: pushing federal and state laws that further strip away reproductive freedoms.


A slight change in the route of the march this year signals this new, shifted focus: Instead of marching to the Supreme Court building, their end point will be closer to the US Capitol. Now that Roe is gone, opponents of abortion want to legislate away access to it and, in some cases, even criminalize it. Lawmakers on the federal, state, and local levels must redouble their efforts to protect reproductive choice and health care access.

The good news is that neither public sentiment nor the political winds are on the side of the antiabortion movement. While the ruling by the high court’s conservative majority in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was swiftly followed by a proposed federal 15-week abortion ban, sponsored by Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, that push quickly fizzled even within his party’s own caucus.

If Republicans feared the blowback from such a move heading into the midterm elections, they were right to. In every state where abortion measures were on the ballot, the right to abortion access won. Despite a flurry of restrictive state-level abortion laws enacted after the Dobbs ruling, the GOP suffered a net loss of governors’ offices and state Legislature seats in the midterms, as well as a seat in the US Senate — a powerful rebuke from voters angered by the attack on reproductive rights as well as the embrace of election denialism. Three states changed their constitutions to enshrine abortion rights.


Even the highest court in Graham’s home state struck down its 6-week abortion ban, finding that it violated the South Carolina Constitution’s protection of the right to privacy — a ruling that essentially amounts to a state-level Roe v. Wade.

But it’s also clear that dangerous fallout from the Dobbs decision remains and the stakes are still incredibly high. Among the most disturbing developments is the vow by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall to aggressively enforce the state’s law criminalizing the use of the abortion pill — emphasizing that people could be prosecuted if they use a pill sent to them legally by someone in Massachusetts or another state where the pills are available. State lawmakers and attorneys general in the Bay State and across the nation must do their part to combat these types of efforts by bolstering enforcement of their own laws protecting abortion patients, providers, and funding as well as proposing constitutional amendments where necessary to ensure that their state courts uphold reproductive rights.

And local elected and law enforcement officials have a role to play to ensure the safety of those providing and seeking abortions, as this week’s firebombing of an Illinois Planned Parenthood clinic makes clear.


As opponents of abortion march on, those charged with ensuring reproductive health access must remain vigilant. It’s clear that for their adversaries, Roe was not the goal, just the starting point.

Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us on Twitter at @GlobeOpinion.