On Abortion, Goals Of Back-To-Back Marches Couldn't Be More Different : The Two-Way Less than a week after the Women's March, anti-abortion activists are taking to the streets for what they call the March for Life.

On Abortion, Goals Of Back-To-Back Marches Couldn't Be More Different

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And I'm Steve Inskeep in Washington, where it's the day of an annual event, the day when thousands of people arrive in the city to attend what is called the March for Life. This year, opponents of abortion rights will hear from the new vice president, Mike Pence. NPR's Sarah McCammon is covering the march. She's in our studios.

Sarah, good morning.


INSKEEP: How energized are activists this year?

MCCAMMON: Well, they're feeling good about the Trump administration and especially about Mike Pence, who has a long history as Indiana's governor, of opposing abortion rights. He was sort of picked, in many ways, to shore up the confidence of social conservatives in Trump who, in the past, had described himself as very pro-choice, though he ran, you know, as an anti-abortion candidate. And so Pence is popular with this crowd. And they have a lot of things they're hoping for from this administration.

INSKEEP: Such as what?

MCCAMMON: Quite a few things. A big goal is to cut off federal funding for women's health services provided by Planned Parenthood. Federal funding for abortion is already not allowed. But a lot of these groups want to see Planned Parenthood sort of taken off of the list of groups that can provide services through Medicaid.

INSKEEP: Because it receives federal funding at all for women's health services, even though the money doesn't go for abortions.

MCCAMMON: Right. Other goals include a federal 20-week ban on abortion, something that has been tried in several states and found unconstitutional at the federal level. But that is why, Steve, the Supreme Court is really the big goal. President Trump is expected to announce a nominee next week, and that's something that anti-abortion activists are really watching.

INSKEEP: What are you hearing from specific groups you've spoken with?

MCCAMMON: So ahead of this event, I spoke to Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life of America, and she talked especially about defunding Planned Parenthood as a goal.

KRISTAN HAWKINS: So they are going to be in the fight of their lives, and they're acting like it. They're doing everything they can to start the discussion to try to save their federal funding. So it's even more important that pro-lifers are there, they show up and they show this administration in Washington that we're paying attention.

INSKEEP: And this is a circumstance where, for the first time in a decade, Republicans control both Congress and the White House, so there's a possibility of doing something in a way that perhaps there wasn't in the past. Now...


INSKEEP: ...Let me ask you, Sarah McCammon, how does this event compare with the last big march in Washington, which was just a week ago on Saturday, the big Women's March, where hundreds of thousands of people showed up?

MCCAMMON: Well, you know, there probably will be comparisons between the two because they're happening so close together at the beginning of the Trump administration. They are very different events, though. The Women's March is, you know, a one-time event. Maybe there will be more, but it was sort of organized spontaneously, in many ways in response to Trump's campaign rhetoric, really focused on women's issues and women's rights but lots of other issues as well - immigration, for instance, and the environment, whereas the March for Life is an annual event. The only issue is opposing abortion - legalized abortion.

Here's what the president of March for Life, Jeannie Mancini told me.

JEANNE MANCINI: I was very sad because I think young women really missed out on a critical voice at the Women's March. And - but that said, I think we're a pretty different march. We're a one-issue march.

INSKEEP: What does she mean by missed out on a critical voice at the Women's March?

MCCAMMON: Yeah. So that brings us to some of the tension between some of the ideas that are being talked about today and were talked about last week at the Women's March. There was a bit of a controversy over whether or not anti-abortion feminists could participate. They weren't allowed to be official partners, but some of them did march last week and will be here today.

INSKEEP: And they'll be marching again today.

Sarah, thanks very much.

MCCAMMON: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Sarah McCammon this morning in our studios.

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