Bethany Bomberger and other anti-abortion activists gathered outside a hotel's ballroom in an informal huddle. They were overcome with gratitude as the news of the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade broke just hours before the Pro-Life Women's Conference was officially opened.
Ms. Bomberger, who was tearing up this weekend as she spoke of the moment when 'the impossible' became possible, said: 'There is life before Roe and after.' She and her husband are leaders of an organization which opposes abortion and has recently expanded to include the acceptance of transgender identities.
As the conference began, Ms. Bomberger took the stage in a small suburban convention center just outside St. Louis. Who's with me? She asked the crowd as she led several hundred women into the wave. We pro-lifers have life on our sides! She wore a gold necklace that read'mama', a gift her son gave to her.
Dobbs V. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a ruling from last summer, eliminated the right to abortion in the United States and returned the matter to the individual states. The ruling also changed the face of abortion in America, forcing some clinics to close, others to open and causing new fights over contraception, abortion pills and miscarriage treatment. In the first six-month period following the ruling, legal abortions dropped by more than 6 percent.
Shawn Carney is the president and CEO of 40 Days for Life. He said that the 24th of June marks a 'great day in our history' for those who have spent years fighting against abortion, believing it to be the destruction of innocent lives. Mr. Carney’s organization is co-sponsoring a celebratory Dobbs Anniversary rally at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, on Saturday morning. This will be followed by an evening gala with black tie optional.
The anti-abortion calendar has shifted its focus from January 1973, the date when Roe's decision was made, to June. Mr. Carney compared Roe's anniversary with the Dred Scott case of 1857 which Americans don't celebrate and the Dobbs Anniversary to Juneteenth which they do. He has proposed moving the March for Life (the annual anti-abortion protest held in Washington every January) to June.
This weekend, activists in Georgia and Wisconsin will celebrate what they call 'Dobbs Day' at statehouses. Some social conservatives are urging them to rebrand the month of June as "Life Month," a celebration that is a jab at Pride Month.
The exhibition hall in Missouri this weekend was filled with bumper stickers, prayer beads and stacks of colorful 'Pro Life Kids' coloring pages. Nuns dressed in habits mixed with young women wearing T-shirts that read 'Love Wildly,' 'Life has Purpose' or 'Life Is Purpose'. A selfie station displayed a neon sign that read 'Pro Woman Is Pro Life'
Participants were asked to wear their best outfit from 1972 or 2022 to the dance party that took place on Saturday night. This was to honor the year of the Roe decision and the year in which the court reversed its decision 50 years later.
Danielle Pitzer said on Friday that she was ecstatic to be dancing in celebration of the Roe decision. She is the director of Focus on the Family's sanctity-of-human life department. She was wearing a kaleidoscopic, spangled "disco dress" complete with platform heels and a matching hairband.
While many American women lamented the loss of their national right to an abortion, conservative women - and in particular young women - had powered the abortion movement and given it the fresh energy and enthusiasm of a younger generation. This moment was one for them to celebrate and acknowledge new challenges.
The American public has become more supportive of abortion rights. This is a political liability for Republicans. The G.O.P. struggled to reach a consensus regarding abortion restrictions. So far, presidential candidates have avoided this issue. Women have continued to have abortions in states that have banned them, but they've also turned to pills to get an abortion or traveled to another state.
Angela Huguenin is the director of And Then There Were None. The organization aims to convince abortion clinic workers to join an anti-abortion campaign. She said that many abortion clinic workers have become more hostile towards her efforts over the past year. Since Roe's overturn, dozens of clinics closed and many had to move to other states.
For true believers, who are often anti-abortion activists or volunteers, part of the fallout in Missouri can be attributed to a failure of communication: If the public understood better the commitments of the movement to mothers and babies, they would view things differently.
Some people in the movement doubt that Dobbs is a victory. Destiny Herndon De La Rosa, founder of the anti-abortion New Wave Feminists group, was present at a National Right to Life conference last year, when the court's decision was announced. She said that the room was erupting in almost panicked joy. Her own emotions were mixed.
She said: 'It did nothing, but it created chaos.' Some new state laws didn't include exceptions for incest or rape, and since then 'horror tales' have emerged where women were denied care due to pregnancy complications.
She said that 'pro-lifers may have won the battle, but they are not going to win war' until they improve laws and promote a comprehensive social safety network. She added that mistakes could easily lead to codification of abortion.
Abby Johnson addressed the Missouri women on the stage, Friday afternoon. She was seated on a sofa, next to former abortion clinic workers. Ms. Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood director and prominent anti-abortion advocate, addressed the women from the stage on Friday afternoon. She sat in a white sofa next to a panel of former abortion clinic employees.
She warned the crowd of rapt listeners about the rise in medication abortions and the commitment of the abortion rights movement to 'never cease killing babies'
She said, "We just won a big victory." Let's continue to win.