WASHINGTON -- Groups pushing for the advancement of abortion rights and those looking to limit the procedure have an ambitious agenda starting this week, foreshadowing a year that could be critical for advocates on both sides of the debate.
In two months, the Supreme Court will hear its first major abortion case since 2016, and both sides are revving up for a major presidential election. States are also eyeing a number of new reproductive health bills as their legislatures come back into session.
A flurry of legislation timed around the Jan. 22 anniversary of the landmark 1973 abortion rights case Roe v. Wade and the largest annual anti-abortion rally, known as the March for Life, is typical in most years. But with a split Congress and impeachment proceedings pending in the Republican-controlled Senate, this year's activity will focus more on motivating supporters to prepare for upcoming fights over state policies, court cases and elections.
Kristan Hawkins, president of the anti-abortion Students for Life of America group, envisions renewed energy beginning this week, stemming in part from the 2020 campaign season.
"There's a general feeling that most people would agree that this is going to be a pivotal year when we talk about abortion in our country," she said.
More than 100,000 abortion opponents are expected to rally for the March for Life on Jan. 24, with a 3,000-person conference scheduled the following day aimed at training abortion opponents to mobilize. In recent years, the president and vice president spoke at the March for Life. Top administration officials are expected to make an appearance this year as well.
Last year, the march was timed for the week of a Senate procedural vote to codify a ban on taxpayer-funded abortion, the announcement of a newly formed Senate Pro-Life Caucus and a letter from President Donald Trump to Speaker Nancy Pelosi promising to veto any abortion rights legislation.
Anti-abortion advocates want to see movement on their key policy priority: legislation that they argue would protect an infant who survives an attempted abortion.
Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, expects the call to action this year to be related to a House discharge petition to require a vote on this bill. Missouri Rep. Ann Wagner, who sponsored the House version, is slated to speak at the march, as are other GOP lawmakers and Louisiana Democratic state Sen. Katrina Jackson, who wrote the law that the Supreme Court will hear in March.
Another priority, according to Hawkins, is targeting Planned Parenthood funding.