US

A group of teenagers from a Christian youth group, bundled up in scarves and beanie hats, march down the National Mall in Washington DC chanting “Hey Ho, Hey Ho, Roe has got to go.”

They are protesting a decision that legalised abortion long before they were born, and for some of them, before even their parents were born.

Roe v Wade was a landmark ruling made by the Supreme Court 49 years ago to the day and this march has taken place every year since, with the exception of 2021, when it was held virtually.

But this year’s event has an expectant, even celebratory tone.

Those who have travelled to the capital from across America feel their fight has reached its apex and that the Supreme Court is on the verge of overturning the constitutional right to abortion.

The president of the March for Life, Jeanne Mancini, is the first to take the stage, pointing out where the first aid tents are in case the minus temperatures becomes too much, before asking the audience a question.

“Do you believe that the unborn person should have the right to life?” she says, to cheers from the crowd of several thousand.

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“Now say it louder so the guy in the White House hears you,” she shouts and they oblige.

This is a minority but it’s a significant and noisy one.

Abortion is one of America’s great issues of divergence, split often along political or religious lines and loaded with enough power to decide elections and sow further discord in an already deeply fractured society.

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Marching towards the Supreme Court are a group of teenage boys from a high school in Kansas City, Missouri.

I ask why a woman who has been raped should not be allowed to terminate her pregnancy.

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“That’s always a very unfortunate situation for the woman,” one boy says, “but we’re here looking out for the child in the womb who’s so helpless and needs people like us to come out to support them.”

There are a smattering of pro-choice counter-protesters along the march, a few posters which demand “get your rosaries off my ovaries”.

But this is largely an echo chamber.

It is one side of arguably the longest standing and most polarising debate in American society and one which will, with the Supreme Court decision on abortion expected before June, reach a flashpoint very soon.

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