From Thursday, January 18 to Saturday, January 20, Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, and other supporters will gather in Washington, D.C. for the March for Life. People “in the know” are aware of the enormity of this event, which draws hundreds of thousands of protestors. For the average American, the March is barely a blip on the screen.
History of the March for Life
According to the March for Life website, the first march occurred on January 22, 1974. This was the one year anniversary of the tragic Roe vs. Wade ruling. Nellie Gray, the “Joan of Arc” of the pro-life movement, founded the March. Gray worked tirelessly for the March until her death in 2012.
It’s important to note that the “Roe” of Roe vs. Wade, Norma McCorvey, converted to Catholicism and is now active in the pro-life movement.
Soon after the first event, the March for Life became a non-profit organization. In the years following, the March has occurred despite the weather or challenges. In 1987, thousands marched despite a snowstorm. In 1990, an escalator collapse injured many marchers but the March for Life was not canceled. In 2002, the March occurred mere months after the September 11 but the marchers attended despite the fear of further terrorist attack.
The reason why many Americans are only barely aware of the March for Life is due to the lack of media coverage. In fact, one report indicates that the obscene “Women’s March” received three times the coverage of the March for Life. They received a whopping 1 hour, 15 minutes, and 18 seconds of coverage.
In 2015, 200,000 people participated in the March. However, the three big television networks (NBC, ABC, and CBS) only spent fifteen seconds covering the March. In 2016, the media spent 35 seconds to cover the event but most of it was used up talking about students who were caught in a blizzard on their way home.
In case you need more perspective on the disparity between news events: news media outlets spent more time talking about the Climate March and a new baby panda at a zoo. The way the coverage is given is a marked difference as well. For the Climate March, news outlets portrayed it in a positive light and conveniently did not cover the more radical elements of the March.
When mainstream media discusses the March for Life, they refer to in negative terms and rarely as “pro-life”. Rather, mainstream media prefers to call it “anti-abortion” and opposed to women’s rights.
A Change in the Wind
A significant change in media coverage occurred in 2017. Shortly after his inauguration, ABC reporter David Muir interviewed President Trump. A lot of fuss at the time was being made about crowd sizes and truthful reporting regarding those sizes. Muir questioned Trump about the Women’s March, if Trump had heard the chanting.
Trump replied that, no, he hadn’t but he understood it was a large turnout. He then used that to segue into the March for Life, pointing out that there would be a large turnout then. Muir, now-visibly uncomfortable, suddenly no longer wanted to discuss crowd size and tried to change the subject.
Trump, though, pressed the issue and pointed out that he had heard that the media did not cover the March for Life. He accused the media of bias and ignoring an event that drew hundreds of thousands of people from all occupations, classes, and religions.
One wonders if President Trump was employing reverse psychology. Driven by a need to always prove Trump wrong, there was a slight uptick in coverage for the March for Life that year. For the first time ever, C-SPAN live-streamed the rally. The fact that Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the rally also helped to draw more media coverage. However, it wasn’t enough and the Women’s March still received substantially more press.
For two years now, an organization called the Alliance for Fair Coverage of Life Issues has run a campaign called #CovertheMarch. According to their website, the Alliance urges journalists to adhere to the following guidelines:
- Report on life issues of public interest.
- Report on the pro-life movement.
- Include pro-life voices.
- Refuse conflict-of-interest awards.
- Take seriously the claims against abortion investigations.
People who visit the Alliance’s website will have the opportunity to sign a petition demanding more media coverage of the March for Life, as well as find contact information for the network executives of ABC, NBC, and CBS.
This year, the March for Life has a special meaning for Catholics. The Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Arlington issued a joint letter stating that, by the authority granted by Pope Francis,
“a plenary indulgence can be obtained under the usual conditions…by the Christian faithful who are truly penitential and compelled by charity, if they take part in the sacred celebrations, along with the great assembly of people, throughout the whole course of the annual event that is called ‘March for Life’.”
The sick, the elderly, and those with grave reason to not leave their homes are still eligible for the indulgence. They must “spiritually join themselves to the holy ceremonies, while also having offered prayers and their sufferings or the ailments of their own life to the merciful God.”
Catholics gain plenary indulgences by completing the action to which the indulgence is attached, going to Confession, receiving Holy Communion, having complete detachment from even venial sin, and praying for the Pope’s intentions.
2018 March for Life Events
This year, the main speaker for the March for Life will be Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisc). This will be the first time Ryan has spoken at the March since his election.
Events for the March kick off on January 18 with a protest at the D.C. Planned Parenthood. National Pro-life leaders will be present. There will also be summits, rallies, and expos. In the evening, Timothy Cardinal Dolan will celebrate the opening Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
The next day will be the March itself, as well as Masses in both the Novus Ordo and Tridentine forms, as well as more rallies, a convention, and prayer services. On Saturday, the 20th, there will be more events for Marchers to attend.