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“I would like to see it abolished completely.”

A year after the North Carolina General Assembly extended the state's abortion ban from 20 to 12 weeks, several hundred anti-abortion protesters staged their annual rally and march in downtown Raleigh on Saturday, but were in no mood to celebrate.

The speeches, chants and signs showed they wanted lawmakers to go much further.

“What we were able to get through is just a down payment,” Rep. Neal Jackson, a Republican and Baptist pastor from Randolph County, told the crowd gathered at the Halifax Mall. “We will continue the fight for every child, because every child has a right to life.”

The situation regarding abortion changed dramatically in 2022 when the U.S. Supreme Court issued Roe v. Wade, overturned the court's 1973 decision that legalized abortion and gave regulatory authority to the states. Since then, many states with Republican legislatures have implemented stricter restrictions on abortion.

But North Carolina's ban, which allows exceptions in cases of rape, incest or endangerment of the mother's life, still allows about 90% of all abortions to continue, said Bill Pincus, a retired doctor and president of NC Right to Life.

He is pushing for a ban on conception except in cases where the mother's life is at risk. He also said he is not opposed to rape and incest victims seeking an abortion, although he sees it as punishment to the baby for the father's crimes.

Neil Schunke of Marion, NC prays during the 26th annual North Carolina Right To Life rally at the Halifax Mall on Saturday, May 18, 2024 in Raleigh, NC

Neil Schunke of Marion, NC prays during the 26th annual North Carolina Right To Life rally at the Halifax Mall on Saturday, May 18, 2024 in Raleigh, NC

North Carolina's 12-week ban sparked an outcry among advocates of a woman's right to choose whether to have an abortion. They held a news conference two days earlier to mark the one-year anniversary of the bill's passage, particularly criticizing the way legislative leaders brought the bill to a vote without committee hearings or opportunities for amendments.

“That the anti-abortion leadership had to resort to deceptive tactics and secret caucus meetings and negotiations to pass Senate Bill 20 speaks volumes about how they feel about their voters and democracy here in North Carolina,” said Tara Romano , executive director of Pro-Choice North Carolina

They say the legislation has had a disproportionate impact on minorities, rural residents and low-income people.

Rally participants said they welcomed the state legislature's tightening of the abortion ban, but they would like to see more.

Several hundred pro-life advocates from across North Carolina march around the General Assembly after their rally on Saturday, May 18, 2024 in Raleigh, North CarolinaSeveral hundred pro-life advocates from across North Carolina march around the General Assembly after their rally on Saturday, May 18, 2024 in Raleigh, North Carolina

Several hundred pro-life advocates from across North Carolina march around the General Assembly after their rally on Saturday, May 18, 2024 in Raleigh, North Carolina

“I would like to see it completely abolished at the federal level, just like we abolished slavery,” said Amy Gregor of Knightdale.

NC Right to Life, like many other anti-abortion groups across the country, had held the rally regularly in January to challenge the Roe v. Wade to coincide, but this year it was postponed until the spring. It was not intended to commemorate the anniversary of the state's abortion law, Pincus said.

He wanted to take advantage of the better weather, but feared the threat of thunderstorms would reduce attendance. A much larger crowd gathered on a bitterly cold January day last year for a rally at which Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a staunch anti-abortion candidate who is running for governor, also gave a speech. Robinson was not at Saturday's rally.

Anna Harden

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