Young people at the March for Life call on Republicans to stop avoiding abortion

WASHINGTON — As thousands of high school and college students came to the nation’s capital to participate in the 51st annual March for Life, young people are calling on Republicans to be more active in addressing abortion going into the 2024 elections.

Young people from across the country weathered the cold and snow to march from the National Mall to the Capitol on Friday, calling on elected officials to change abortion policies to encourage women to bring their unborn babies to term.

Heading into the 2024 presidential election year, Joseph Yanta, an 18-year-old from Atlanta, believes many Republicans are not doing enough to message properly on abortion — and that Democrats will be able to fill that vacuum to take control of the issue.

“They barely even acknowledge it. A lot of leaders, especially in my state, don’t even go to these marches for life. They kind of just court votes from people who are pro-life,” Yanta told the Washington Examiner. “I think the Democrats will have a very big push to try and paint Republicans as sort of religious zealots and paint abortion as a religious issue. And I think that it will probably fail. If Republicans are able to engage this large pro-life base, I think that we can very well win in 2024.”

“There’s something really atrocious in our society that’s going very wrong, and no one’s really acknowledging it,” he added. “So, I felt like I had to stand up and do something about it.”

Joseph Yanta holds a sign at the 51st annual March for Life on January 19 2024. (Washington Examiner; Breccan F. Thies).

Republicans have struggled to navigate the issue of abortion since the overturn of Roe v. Wade in 2022, culminating in disunity on messaging, disagreement on the proper policy prescriptions, and losses in several battles to stop state ballot initiatives enshrining access to the procedure into state constitutions.

Some in the GOP have caught the ire of activist groups, including SBA Pro-Life America, for not being more proactive. SBA’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, referred to the lack of messaging on abortion as the “head in the sand” strategy that lost Republicans an advantage in the 2022 midterm elections.

Yanta and many attendees at the March, however, are also optimistic about achieving an end to abortion but anticipate a long road ahead.

“I’ve seen a lot of great things. We’ve really been pushing a lot of statewide bans,” he said. “I do see some some step back, though. We’ve stopped pushing national bans. Some people have gotten complacent, but I think we need to keep pushing.”

That was the perception of many at the rally Friday afternoon who see the overturn of Roe as the beginning of a broader movement to end abortion but are frustrated by some of the setbacks like states passing ballot measures that enshrine abortion into their constitutions.

More than in years past, rallygoers are realizing the political reality that achieving a total ban on abortion, which most of the activists want, will take time and smaller victories, such as restricting the procedure earlier in pregnancy than was allowed under Roe, at the state level.

“At some point, I’d like to get to none. But that’s not really possible to just do none right now. So just keep dwindling back the weeks and changing people’s minds so it can become unthinkable,” Deirdra Sullivan of Grand Rapids, Michigan, told the Washington Examiner. “But that’ll take time.”

(L-R) Dierdra Sullivan, Anna Phillips, and Youngji Cho of South Korea attend the 51st annual March for Life on January 19, 2024. (Washington Examiner; Breccan F. Thies).

“These are the people who can’t fight for themselves at all, so we need to have this many people to fight for them and help them — help people choose life — because babies are the most innocent and defenseless; they can’t do anything about this situation,” Sullivan, 19, continued. “So, we try to change people’s minds and try to promote people to choose life for their kids and their families.”

Yanta agreed, saying, “I’m very pragmatic about it. I think that whatever reduces abortions, we should go forward. But I think the ultimate goal should be a complete national ban.”

Isaac Faulkner holds a sign referencing the Barbie movie at the 51st annual March for Life on January 19, 2024. (Washington Examiner; Breccan F. Thies).

Still, abortion opponents are prepared for the long road ahead, Anna Phillips, a 20-year-old college student from Springfield, Missouri, told the Washington Examiner, because they see it as a “spiritual battle between good and evil” worth fighting.

“I feel like it’s obvious a beating heart is life, but people really undermine that,” she said.

“There are certain states that still have babies who are really old who can still get aborted, and we need to fix that,” Phillips added, saying that since the overturn of Roe, the movement has “really grown,” but “there’s just there’s still a lot of progress that needs to be done.”

Republicans have been divided on the issue since the overturn of Roe, with some wanting to enact sweeping restrictions on abortion, some favoring a patchwork of state policies such as 15-week restrictions and heartbeat bills, while others believing the political moment is not ripe to push the issue too hard.

As the Washington Examiner reported, most of the Republican presidential candidates have differing views on how to address the issue properly, and none have committed to national restrictions.


While still achieving restrictions at the state level, the next move in Yanta’s eyes includes electing anti-abortion advocates to Congress who will pursue federal restrictions.

The House earlier this week passed two bills aimed at encouraging mothers to bring their babies to term, including the Pregnant Students Rights Act, which requires colleges to inform pregnant students of the rights and accommodations available to them in the event of an unplanned pregnancy, as well as the Supporting Pregnant and Parenting Women and Families Act, which aims to block the Biden administration’s defunding of crisis pregnancy centers.