As anti-abortion activists prepare to rally in Austin, they celebrate a "sensational" year

When anti-abortion activists march outside the state Capitol on Saturday, they'll do so celebrating a year of multiple successes at the state and federal level.

Anti-abortion demonstrators march up Congress Avenue toward the Capitol in Austin for the Texas Rally for Life on Jan. 28, 2017. Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

Thousands of anti-abortion Texans are expected to rally on the steps of the state Capitol on Saturday for the Texas Rally for Life, an event recognizing the 45th anniversary of what they consider the "tragic" Roe v. Wade decision. 

But as attendees mourn the U.S. Supreme Court case that ensured a right to a legal abortion, they'll also celebrate. This past year, they say, has brought "sensational" gains for their movement.

Those gains have come at both the federal and state level. President Donald Trump named a conservative justice to the Supreme Court and many more conservatives to lower federal courts across the country. And in his first week in office, Trump's administration re-established the Reagan-era Mexico City Policy, stopping international nongovernmental organizations that promote or provide abortions from receiving federal funding.

Meanwhile, the Republican-led Texas Legislature approved slew of anti-abortion bills that were signed into law by GOP Gov. Greg Abbott, who is the keynote speaker at Saturday's event. Those bills include measures requiring a woman to pay a separate health insurance premium to get coverage for non-emergency abortions and banning second trimester dilation and evacuation abortions. A bill requiring health providers to bury or cremate remains from abortions remains tied up in court.

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The website publicizing the weekend rally sums up the excitement. "Your presence will reaffirm recent sensational pro-life gains accomplished the state legislative sessions in 2017," it says. 

Several abortion rights groups declined to comment for this story. But they have argued that Texas leaders have made the state less safe for women. 

“Texas women deserve access to the health care that is best for them and their personal circumstances — not abortion restrictions pushed by extreme anti-abortion organizations," said Amanda Allen, senior state legislative counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights, after one sweeping abortion measure passed through the Texas Legislature this year. 

But attempts by lawmakers to fight abortion in Texas are nothing new. The biggest changes for anti-abortion activists have been come at the federal level. During the 45th Annual March For Life in Washington this month, Trump became the first sitting president to address the annual rally live via video, a move that excited anti-abortion Texans. That kind of attention has made Trump's presidency especially popular in the anti-abortion movement. 

“He has nominated judges who respect the Constitution as it’s written,” said Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life. “We are very pleased with the work the president and the vice president have been doing."

Still, the anti-abortion movement did see setbacks after Congress didn’t permanently write into law the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funds from being used to pay for abortions if the mother's life is not at risk. Congress also didn't pass a federal ban on abortions occurring after 20 weeks.

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With that in mind, advocates said they will march knowing that they still have a lot of work to do. 

"It's not time to slack off, instead it's time to follow through,” said Alicia Torres, president of Texas Students for Life. "The successes we've seen this past year should motivate us, not satisfy us."