Winter Storm Jonas managed to cancel thousands of East Coast flights on Friday and halt public transportation in Washington, D.C. But the brewing blizzard did not deter thousands of abortion rights opponents from marching in the nation’s capital.
As they do every year on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade—the 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion—protesters gathered for the March for Life. Carrying giant banners, a sparser crowd than usual marched from the National Mall to the U.S. Supreme Court to demand an end to legal abortion in America.
Before the march, Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina headlined the rally held near the base of the Washington Monument. The only presidential candidate to speak at the March for Life, Fiorina appealed to an anti-choice political agenda, vowing as president to cancel federal dollars going to Planned Parenthood (which the nonprofit is legally barred from using to pay for abortion services).
She hinted that she would attempt to appoint Supreme Court justices who do not support abortion rights.
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“The next president will pick up to four Supreme Court justices who will decide issues of life and religious liberty,” Fiorina said. “She will decide whether we force taxpayers to fund the political arm of the abortion industry. Whether we as a nation believe—as the Democrat platform says—that a life isn’t a life until it leaves the hospital. Whether a baby only a month from being born is only as good as the organs you can sell from it.”
Fiorina alluded to the videos the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released last summer, parts of which were displayed on a giant screen courtesy of the anti-choice group Created Equal, as protesters marched along Constitution Avenue. These videos were selectively edited to suggest that Planned Parenthood illegally sells fetal tissue for profit. Neither CMP nor GOP-led federal or state investigators have proved those claims.
Fiorina during her March for Life address, doubled down on statements she has made that one of the videos showed a live aborted fetus with its “legs kicking and heart beating” while a technician discussed on camera how to keep the fetus alive in order to harvest the organs.
Fact-checkers debunked Fiorina’s dubious claims when she first made them last September, but the candidate continues to insist the video as she described it is real.
The former Hewlett Packard CEO praised so-called crisis pregnancy centers (CPC), which exist to encourage women not to have abortions. Fiorina said CPCs do “God’s work” and do not receive “a dime of federal funding.” Contrary to her claim, CPCs have received federal grant dollars over the years.
Both Fiorina and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who also spoke at the rally, invoked this year’s March for Life theme: “Pro-life and pro-woman go hand-in-hand.”
Ernst said she rejects the idea that conservative politicians have unleashed a war on women in recent years by passing vast amounts of restrictions on abortion care.
“I am a woman, and I have been to war,” said Ernst, a military veteran. “And let me be clear: This is no war on women.”
Media reports indicated fewer protesters attended this year’s annual March for Life than in previous years, likely due to the foreboding weather forecast. But a determined mass of abortion foes—many of them out-of-town church youth groups—flooded Constitution Avenue, appearing joyful despite the gray backdrop.
As they walked in the freezing cold, groups drummed and chanted “We love babies, yes we do! We love babies, how about you?” Other groups chanted, “We are the pro-life generation!”
Greeting marchers along the route, activist Mary Rathke, who speaks at anti-choice events throughout the country, held a hot pink sign reading, “Conceived from rape,” while chanting, “Pro-life, every life; no exceptions, no compromise!”
Rathke told Rewire it was her third year attending the March for Life. She said she comes to advocate on behalf of “unborn babies” conceived from rape and incest, because, she said, she was conceived from rape and her mother put her up for adoption when she was 5 years old. Rathke opposes laws that allow women to abort if they were raped, which she said amounts to state-sanctioned discrimination against pregnancies conceived in rape or incest.
Meanwhile, abortion rights activists figured out how to capitalize on this year’s convergence of heavy snowfall with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. After National Journal copy editor Brian French dubbed the coming storm Snow v. Wade on Facebook last week, Rewire’s communications director, Rachel Perrone, encouraged abortion rights activists on Twitter to donate varied dollar amounts per inches of snow that fell along the East Coast to different funds that help low-income women access abortion.
The DC Abortion Fund set up a pledge page in response and raised