U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson rallies with anti-abortion advocates at March for Life

By: - January 19, 2024 2:01 pm

People attend the annual March for Life rally on the National Mall on Jan. 19, 2024 in Washington, D.C. Amidst snow and freezing temperatures anti-abortion activists attended the annual march that marked the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s, now overturned, 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling which legalized abortion in all 50 states. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson pledged to continue pressing for the core values of the anti-abortion movement during a speech to the March for Life on Friday.

The Louisiana Republican didn’t commit to bring any legislation instituting a nationwide ban on abortion to the House floor during his tenure, though he advocated support for health care and spoke about his personal experiences.

“I am myself the product of an unplanned pregnancy,” Johnson said. “In January of 1972, exactly one year before Roe v. Wade, my parents, who were just teenagers at the time, chose life, and I am very profoundly grateful that they did.”

Johnson spoke about the Declaration of Independence, arguing that the federal government isn’t the entity that provides Americans with their rights, but God.

“Our rights do not come from government. Our rights come from God, our creator,” he said.

Now is a pivotal time for people who oppose abortion to come together to change culture and move their cause forward, he said.

“We have every reason to be optimistic, my friends, that we can change public opinion,” Johnson told the crowd of anti-abortion advocates, gathered on the National Mall amid a snowstorm. The annual march, in its 51st year, regularly draws thousands to the nation’s capital.

Johnson, who spoke for just over five minutes, also said this is “a pivotal time to promote quality health care for both women and their unborn children.”

No abortion ban passed in House

The House, under Republican control for more than a year, hasn’t yet passed any legislation that could lead to a nationwide ban on abortion access, though several GOP lawmakers have introduced such bills.

Johnson is one of the 119 co-sponsors on a bill from West Virginia GOP Rep. Alex Mooney that would define life as beginning at conception.

The measure is just three pages long and states that if enacted, it would “implement equal protection for the right to life of each born and preborn human person” and use Congress’ authority to declare “that the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being.”

The bill, which is highly unlikely to pass the Democratically controlled Senate if it gets a vote on the House floor, says that it shouldn’t be “construed to authorize the prosecution of any woman for the death of her unborn child.”

The House has voted on legislation related to pregnancy and the rights of pregnant people, including two bills this past week.

One of the bills, sponsored by Iowa Rep. Ashley Hinson and named the Pregnant Students’ Rights Act, would “require institutions of higher education to disseminate information on the rights of, and accommodations and resources for, pregnant students, and for other purposes.”

The second bill, sponsored by Minnesota Rep. Michelle Fischbach, would “prohibit the Secretary of Health and Human Services from restricting funding for pregnancy centers.”

Those facilities, sometimes called crisis pregnancy centers, have been broadly criticized by Democrats for not always having licensed health care providers. They often are located next to health care clinics that do provide abortions.

The House approved Hinson’s bill following a 212-207 vote and passed Fischbach’s bill on a 214-208 vote. Only Republicans supported the measures.

Democrats are vehemently opposed to a nationwide ban on abortion and have introduced several bills that would restore the right to an abortion.

Senate Democrats, led by Washington state Sen. Patty Murray, held a roundtable discussion earlier this week with doctors to highlight the impact abortion restrictions are having throughout the country.

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Jennifer Shutt
Jennifer Shutt

Jennifer covers the nation’s capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. Her coverage areas include congressional policy, politics and legal challenges with a focus on health care, unemployment, housing and aid to families.

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