By Sharon Bernstein, Gabriella Borter and Brad Brooks

- For a Mississippi doctor, it was a glimpse of a fetal arm. For a police officer, it was the treatment of anti-abortion protesters outside a clinic. A Catholic leader was galvanized by the civil rights movement.

These and other experiences shaped prominent abortion opponents in their decades-long effort to see the U.S. Supreme Court reverse the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that established the constitutional right to abortion.

That could come any day. As they await a Supreme Court decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case that might gut Roe's protections, some leaders of the anti-abortion movement reflected on how they reached this point.


Most Fridays, Dr. Beverly McMillan, 79, can be found praying outside Mississippi's only abortion clinic.

Her quiet opposition is a far cry from the start of her obstetrics and gynecology career. In 1975, McMillan became the first doctor to provide abortions at Mississippi's first free-standing abortion clinic.

She resigned abruptly three years later, she said, “struck with the humanity” of a pregnancy she aborted. In an interview, she recalled how she could make out the tiny arm muscle of a 12-week-old fetus, reminding her of her young son.

The Jackson, Mississippi, resident has dedicated much of the four decades since trying to sway public opinion against abortion.

About 60% of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Even so, McMillan and fellow anti-abortion advocates have successfully pushed for legislation such as her state's 15-week abortion ban, which spurred the legal battle that is expected to end with the Supreme Court overhauling federal abortion rights.

“Who would have thought that Mississippi’s 15-week limit on abortions would be at the Supreme Court level? I certainly didn’t,” McMillan said.

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