Under siege, abortion rights advocates struggle to gain momentum

For decades, abortion rights opponents have drawn large crowds to the National Mall in Washington for the March for Life, an event that often draws thousands of activists and features conservative politicians and religious leaders from across the country. foreground. On Monday, thousands of people gathered outside the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg to demand the passage of anti-abortion legislation.

The liberal movement that exploded into the streets in 2017 was led and fueled by women, many of whom were college educated and often middle-aged. They gathered for huge marches and almost weekly protests, gathered to discuss door-to-door strategies in exurban Paneras, and founding new Democratic groups in tiny historically conservative towns. Many protesters have come to these events with their own set of pressing concerns, but surveys have shown that the problem the persistent protesters have most in common is the right to abortion, said Dana R. Fisher, professor of sociology at the University of Maryland which has conducted surveys among activist groups and during large marches.

These motivations have started to change over the past two years. As the Covid-19 threat kept many older activists at home, the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police in May 2020 sparked an even larger wave of nationwide protests, fueled by crowds younger motivated by a different set of issues.

In polls conducted during marches after Mr Floyd’s murder, as well as among organizers of last year’s Earth Day protest, the percentages of people citing the right to abortion as a key motivator for activism were much lower, Ms. Fisher said.

And while Mr. Trump may have been defeated, the problems his presidential tenure highlighted for many activists have not gone away.

“You get the feeling that people are desperate,” said Judy Hines, a retired gym teacher in a conservative rural county in western Pennsylvania and active in Democratic politics.

Ms Hines praised the surge of energy that followed the 2016 election: local meetings were packed, political recruits ran for office, and hundreds marched in the county seat. Later, as the energy began to slowly dissipate, the coronavirus turned it off “like a switch,” she said. Ms Hines has not been on a walk for over a year and a half, and because a family member has health issues, she also doesn’t plan to attend on Saturday.

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