Nearly half a century after Roe v. Wade, the movement to overturn abortion rights in the United States is alive and well.
That much was evident the morning of Friday, Jan. 22, when hundreds of lakes area folks shrugged off plummeting temperatures and marched through Brainerd, concluding the 2020 March For Life on the steps of the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse. Speakers at the event included Congressman Pete Stauber, the Rev. Daniel Weiske of St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, and Mary Dischinger, march organizer and a member of the local chapter of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life.
During proceedings, speakers told those assembled the event was nearly canceled, but organizers associated with Minnesotans Concerned for Life forged on anyway.
Stauber was visibly emotional during the event, passionately expounding on defending the unborn in which he referenced the birth of his son Isaac, who has Down syndrome. At the time, doctors suggested the Staubers had the option to terminate the pregnancy — a proposal, Stauber said, he and his wife Jodi found deeply offensive and ethically repugnant.
“We are going to fight,” Stauber said. “I’ll give you my word and my promise — every fiber in my body will be dedicated to life. … The baby deserves the opportunity to breathe the fresh air, see the sunsets, see the sunrise. Fishing. Dancing. They deserve the right. And it’s our responsibility to do that. … Abortion violence is never the answer — those babies deserve life.”
Dischinger did not return repeated requests for comment after the event.
Back in 2018, participants were optimistic about the potential to overturn Roe v. Wade at the federal level. The goal had always been there, they told the Dispatch, but the finish line was growing increasingly clear in their minds.
"There’s maybe not a renewed interest, but a hopeful interest. I think that people are more optimistic that this issue can be revisited at the court level, and then it’s, ‘How do we handle that?’” state Rep. Josh Heintzeman, R-Nisswa, said during the 2018 March For Life. “How are we going to continue to work on this issue? We’re going to chip away, continue to push for reasonable legislation when it comes to clinics and facilities.”
Fast forward three years, and the prospects of overturning Roe v. Wade has improved significantly. When Heintzeman spoke in 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court — the same judicial body that ruled on the landmark 1973 case — had a 5-4 conservative majority, having recently replaced prominent swing-vote and pro-abortion Justice Anthony Kennedy with Justice Neil Gorsuch, a Federalist Society pick.
Now, in 2021, the court has shifted further to the right, a 6-3 conservative majority, with the appointments of Justice Brett Kavanaugh in mid-2018 and Justice Amy Coney Barrett in late 2020, which has sparked renewed interest — as well as fear or hope, depending on who is asked — with regards to a possible repeal of Roe v. Wade after a half-century.