Photo: Facebook March for Life
Donald Trump’s ascent to the White House has made a difference to many things, and near the top of the list is the way abortion is being viewed and dealt with in America. As a result, last Friday’s March for Life in Washington DC received probably more attention than any time in the 43-year history of the annual event.
For once the normal, good-humoured, significantly youthful faces of pro-life America with their varied and creative signs, their pro-woman message, their patience and their earnestness about the whole thing could be seen by the general public for more than a few seconds. And they are a joy to look at.
It wasn’t that the march was necessarily bigger than previous years – the president of March for Life, Jeanne Mancini, talks conservatively about tens of thousands, and a definitive estimate is yet to emerge – or necessarily matched the numbers in the Women’s March in the same place a week before; rather, the political environment had changed. There was, as one marcher put it, “an ally in the White House,” encouraging many pro-lifers and forcing big media to take notice.
The Washington Times says that the major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) spent 21 minutes, 52 seconds covering the pro-life event. That isn’t much, but it’s 37 times more than the 35 seconds they gave it last year, according to the Times’ Media Research Center. C-Span and CNN live-streamed the rally –the latter on Facebook – and National Public Radio gave it good coverage, according to this report.
(The Women’s March, which attracted around half a million in Washington, D.C., and millions in major cities worldwide, received 1 hour, 15 minutes, 18 seconds of coverage in its protest the day after President Trump’s inauguration, the Washington Times notes.)
Then there were the more than cursory articles in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Vox and even Cosmopolitan. Balanced, sceptical or “frightened” (Cosmo), they covered the march like never before. And it was more than a token gesture. NY Times, Atlantic and Vox interviewed pro-life women and the Times went to some trouble over a video featuring women with different angles on the cause – including the anti-Trump one.
But it was President Trump who got the media out there, with: an executive order during the previous week reinstating a ban on funding for abortions in foreign aid programmes; the promise of a pro-life appointment to the Supreme Court and the de-funding of Planned Parenthood; sending his Vice President, Mike Pence, and erstwhile election campaign manager now special counsellor Kellyanne Conway to address the rally; the telling off he gave ABC reporter David Muir a couple of days before the march as a media representative (“You don’t cover the march”); all this — along with the inevitable desire to compare turnout with the women’s march — pushed the march up the media agenda.
The unprecedented in-person address by a Vice President and a senior administration official made it an “historic” occasion, said Jeanne Mancini. Both speakers highlighted the Constitutional affirmation of the right to life and its source in the Creator.
“Life is winning again in America!” Pence told the crowd to loud cheering. He assured them that the new president shared their opposition to abortion and would indeed appoint a pro-life judge to the highest court in the land. “We will not rest until we restore a culture of life in America,” he declared.
Conway also affirmed the commitment of the White House to the cause. She also underlined the pro-woman message:
“This is a time of incredible promise for the pro-life and pro-adoption movement. Our message and our positive action must also reach those women who face unplanned pregnancies. They should know they are not alone. They are not judged. They, too, are protected, and cared for, and celebrated.”
Utah Congresswoman Mia B. Love spoke movingly about her Haitian parents, who were tested when they came to the US after Roe v. Wade by discovering there was another child on the way. Had they aborted the child, there would be no Mia Love in Congress. She told the crowd:
“Every time we kill a child through abortion, we kill our potential. Every time we kill a child, we, all of us suffer. We lose a little of ourselves and a whole lot of our future.
“We cannot accept what might have been if we allow an organization to convince women they have no choice but to abort the life and the potential within them. May we never ever allow our funds to pay for the death of young children.”
Football star Benjamin Watson, at his first March for Life, talked of “loving kindness” towards women who have had abortions and called for men to take responsibility for the women they make pregnant and for unborn children. Former Planned Parenthood employee Abby Johnson, and Mexican telenovela star Karyme Lozano also spoke.
Popular figures and, even more, the testimonies of ordinary women – both those struggling with an unplanned pregnancy, or regretting a previous abortion, and those helping them — may do as much or more for the pro-life cause in the long run than favourable political regimes.
The liberal media’s interviews with women activists show them to be a politically varied group, with some, perhaps many, ambivalent about the current White House. This should encourage more media interest in the movement rather than less.
With the appointment of a conservative judge to the Supreme Court imminent and the possibility of Roe v Wade being re-argued and even overturned, we could – and should — hear a lot more about the central issue itself: our obligations to the human being in the womb.
We know so much more now than even 40 years ago about the beginning of life and its development. If big media could shed its ideological commitment to abortion as a method of social control, it could play a distinguished part in laying the facts about the foetus before the public. It could serve a truth that has been denied for decades by a thousand lies and obfuscations.
If only facts and truth mattered that much.
Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet.