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March For Life President Discusses The Future Of The Movement Under Biden

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

Today, abortion rights opponents are attending the annual march for life. But between the coronavirus pandemic and security concerns following the Capitol insurrection, this year, organizers have told most of their supporters to join the rally online. Jeanne Mancini is the president of March for Life. And she says her movement is ready to fight President Biden on policies that may support abortion rights. That fight may have already begun. Just this week, Biden overturned what's known as the Mexico City Policy. That move will allow federal dollars to be used for international aid groups that may offer abortion or information about it.

JEANNE MANCINI: We anticipate that he'll do some things to fund Planned Parenthood, our nation's largest abortion provider, and sadly, force Americans to fund domestic abortions. So we will be really working aggressively against this administration. And for us, carrying on this tradition of the March for Life is incredibly important this year.

MCCAMMON: And President Trump appointed a third of the Supreme Court, more than a quarter of the federal judiciary. How much does that help the effort to get Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide, in front of the Supreme Court, in your mind?

MANCINI: Well, in my mind, I am not of the view that we'll see Roe v. Wade go before the Supreme Court any time in the near future. So now, will we see different abortion questions, you know, whether this is things about informed consent, early stages of abortion, et cetera? Will we see those cases go before the Supreme Court? I think so. And we're delighted by President Trump's judicial actions.

MCCAMMON: I want to move on to the March for Life itself this year. President Trump was the first sitting president to attend the March for Life. What does it mean to you that this first rally under President Biden is being held mostly online?

MANCINI: Oh, it's very sad to me that the March for Life has to look different this year, of course. But given the pandemic and then given, you know, some of the recent violence that we've seen, it just felt like the most prudent decision and one that was painfully and painstakingly made with my fellow board members. So we will march. Then we look forward to being back together in person next year.

MCCAMMON: When you look at January 6, there were some anti-abortion rights activists who livestreamed from inside the Capitol. Several other activists, including some prominent ones, were at the rally with President Trump, although not necessarily part of storming the Capitol. Was any part of your reason for moving the march online a fear that somebody there might get violent?

MANCINI: Well, let me be clear that violence and destruction done in the name of justice for the unborn is never a solution. So I wasn't aware of pro-life activists being involved in that. But in name only because violence and destruction done in the name of justice is never a solution. And the one rule that we have for participants at the March for Life is that they're anti-violence. They can believe in anything, but they can't believe in violence.

MCCAMMON: Abby Johnson of the group And Then There Were None, which works with people who've chosen to leave clinics, she was part of the rally that President Trump held outside the Capitol before people marched there. She's spoken at your rallies in the past. Does it concern you that she was present that day?

MANCINI: Oh, Sarah, I'm just going to go back to separating myself from anything that happened that day. I don't have control over how every single pro-life leader approaches that. But I can tell you that the March for Life is anti-violence and that we are committed to building a world where life is respected.

MCCAMMON: More broadly, Jeanne, at a time when we are seeing increasingly heated rhetoric and more political violence in our country around a variety of issues, how much responsibility do activists, leaders of movements like yours, bear for framing the debate in a way that stays peaceful?

MANCINI: Well, I think it's critically important to do everything possible right now to build a culture where we can respect differences and we welcome differences and we can be loving and respectful towards each other. I can tell you, personally, in my own family, very close to me, I don't have people that totally agree on all of these kinds of issues. And so it starts in the home. I think we're losing sight of the human being right in front of us. And for me, personally, I take that responsibility very seriously.

MCCAMMON: Jeanne Mancini is president of the March for Life. Thank you for joining us.

MANCINI: Thanks so much for having me, Sarah.

MCCAMMON: And we reached out to a spokeswoman for Abby Johnson, the anti-abortion rights activist we mentioned a moment ago. In a statement, Johnson said that she, quote, "arrived at the Capitol steps well after the group had stormed in," and that a rally she'd been scheduled to speak at that day was canceled because of the riot. So she returned to her hotel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.