I. The March Itself
The March for Life on Friday was pretty excellent. I’ve heard it was the largest ever, which is more surprising, because the weather was expected to be pretty bad. Literally tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands (estimates range between the obviously-too-low 50,000 to the probably-too-high 300,000 for the number of participants) of pro-lifers from around the country drove, in some cases well over a thousand miles, often in bad weather (one woman I talked to had driven in pretty constant rain and snow from Michigan to D.C., no quick commute), in order to spend hours rallying, protesting, and marching for this cause in bad weather. And indeed, during the speeches, almost all of us got pretty muddy, as the grounds of the National Mall had turned into about an inch of mud, which the numerous kids present enjoyed playing in.
Things have been looking up this week, with the election of Scott Brown (far from ideal from a pro-life perspective, but compared to the alternatives, an acceptable choice) and the killing of the pro-choice health care bill, to the discovery that for the first time since polling began in 1994, a majority of Americans surveyed consider themselves pro-life, including a disproportionate number of young people. It was great to march with all of these pumped-up pro-lifers. Two things stuck out about the crowd: a lot of women, and a lot of young people. I’m 24, and felt old. At least part of this, it seems to me, is the fact that it’s a weekday rally in D.C. Not everybody can take off work to come protest, and students have a lot more flexibility. Still, given that the media spin on this has been that it’s a bunch of old men, it’s nice to be able to say as an eyewitness that that’s just a bald-faced lie.
The March for Life is ecumenism at its best. Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestants, Jews, and even agnostics and atheists were rallying for a single cause and supporting one another. There was (as always) a massive didgeridoo-looking instrument which some of the Orthodox Jews brought to remind us all of the fall of the walls of Jericho, there were signs in Arabic and Spanish as well as English, lots of Latin American music being sung and played by Hispanic Catholics, and so on. Songs, secular and religious, would break out at various points in the March, and simply people moved at different paces, it would be a sort of whirlwind. We’d be praying the rosary with one group, and find ourselves separated by the flow of crowd, sing a few songs with another group, and so on. At one point, we were loudly praying a rosary while another group, loudly praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, came by. A group stationed on the side of the road did the Rosary in Latin, while a full band with drummers was stationed nearby.
II. Media Coverage
The media coverage of the March for Life is always absurd. To be honest, it’s almost scary. To know that a major social movement had a huge show of support, and that there was a near media black-out rendered all of those people, in a very real sense, invisible. This movement is much larger than the much-publicized Tea Parties or, say, the tiny gay-rights rally in D.C. which made Post front-page news a few months ago. When the media didn’t totally ignore the March, they made sure it didn’t make the front page, were vague about it, and made it sound like it was equally pro-life and pro-choice. Let’s get a few facts straight:
- Pro-life attendance: “tens of thousands” (Washington Post, Scripps Howard Foundation Wire) to “300,000” (Zenit) and even “more than 300,000” (LifeSite), or simply “hundreds of thousands” (Washington Times)
- Pro-choice attendance: “about 60” (Scripps Howard Foundation Wire)
I mean, the pro-life Youth Mass at the Verizon Center (here’s a shot from 2006) fills up so quickly that St. Patricks, Old St. Mary’s, and all of the other nearby churches hold simultaneous Mass. Fr. Andrew came, and his group from Aquinas High School had to go up to Nativity, which is nowhere near the March.
The disparity between the roughly 60 pro-choicers and the hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers is important, because here’s how CNN covered it: “Abortion rights supporters and opponents hit the streets of the nation’s capital Friday to mark the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade…” The article doesn’t mention any numbers of the respective groups, and indeed, one might expect that the pro-lifers were the counter-protesters, given the top billing given to the roughly 60 pro-choicers. The first image on the site is of pro-choice protesters, and is taken from below, so you can’t tell how many pro-choicers there are. You’ll note, however, that all of the pro-choicers have the same signs… because they’re a small NOW-affiliated group.
Here’s the Christian Science Monitor. Every protester but one is pro-choice, and the one pro-lifer is being obnoxious, trying to cover up one of the women’s signs. CSM reports that “Both sides rally in Washington” as if a rally of 60 people is roughly equal to a rally of 300,000. Where else has a 60-person rally in D.C. even made the national news? CSM then says, “According to Newsweek, demonstrators on both sides were mostly from the baby boomer generation.” Apparently, they couldn’t be troubled to find news out on their own, but Newsweek is just wrong on this one. While the Post didn’t have good coverage in the news section, one pro-choice writer wrote a column on it, and was startled to find a young and enthusiastic pro-life crowd:
In this case, I was especially struck by the large number of young people among the tens of thousands at the march. It suggests that the battle over abortion will endure for a long time to come. “We are the pro-life generation,” said signs carried by the crowd, about half its members appearing to be younger than 30.
This image, taken from NPR’s absurd coverage, shows a hint both of the disparity in size, and the media focus:
The single pro-choicer, rather than the young, not-especially-male crowd of pro-lifers praying for her, is the focus of the shot. Even a pro-choicer started to smell a rat, commenting on the NPR article:
“I staunchly support a woman’s right to choose abortion at any time during pregnancy, but I am extremely unhappy that the MSM refuses to cover these marches, anti and pro, and give a decent estimate of the attendees. This “article” was no article at all, just a handful of closely framed photos.”
Indeed. As you ascend Capitol Hill, it’s very easy to take a shot of the mile or more of protesters ascending: the sort of photo you saw during the Obama Inauguration, for example. That no mainstream secular media source I’ve found so far has posted that shot is indicative. Still, whether anyone heard the tree fall in the nation’s capital or not, the pro-lifers were there, are enthusiastic about the future, and aren’t going away in November.