Planned Parenthood meets Dante's Inferno in D.C.

Diana West

5/3/2004 12:00:00 AM - Diana West

If you, like me, missed out on the March for Women's Lives in Washington last weekend, fret not; The Washington Post was there, and thank goodness. Without its style section coverage, a babe in the woods, particularly from a conservative "red" state of mind, might have gotten the idea that this massive demonstration for abortion rights (sorry, "women's lives") was a shameless outpouring of a raging movement that trivializes life itself.

Au contraire. The Washington Post declared the march was an "impressive and congenial" gathering that "felt both urgent and singularly focused on its cause." Sure, there were descriptions to be gleaned from other media of marchers whose babies sported pro-abortion stickers on their rompers, of uterus-replicas hoisted high over marchers' heads, and the seemingly endless stream of placards and banners that variously called for both George W. Bush's political abortion come November ("Abort Bush in the First Term," "Stop Unwanted Presidencies"), and his physical abortion, retroactively ("If Only Barbara Bush Had a Choice").

While this sounds like something out of Planned Parenthood meets Dante's Inferno, according to the Post account, there was nothing ugly, psychotic or even, to use today's term of choice, mean-spirited, about any such expressions of support for "women's lives." As the newspaper put it, "The vibe of the day-long rally was at once good-humored and yet deadly serious."

This is really good to know. Otherwise, it might have been easy to mistake the unprintable obscenities of the day as having been, well, obscene, and the banalities of the speakers as having been, well, banal. "The march is about the totality of women's lives," said abortion rights activist Kate Michelman, expressing a thought so very deadly serious -- clearly, not banal -- that it's hard to imagine why the rally wasn't called the March for the Totality of Women's Lives.

"Leggo my Eggo" was a favorite march slogan, according to the Post, but gag not; this was surely a display of Post-style good humor. So, no doubt, was "Keep Bush out of my pants," a slogan reported elsewhere. "There was also a poster of an animated uterus with eyes and boxing gloves on each ovary, looking for a fight," the newspaper noted.

A fight -- for what? Anyway you define the terms of the abortion debate, this "animated uterus" was not fighting for life. Also at the march was a "spoken-word poet," who, according to the Post, "riffed on the Con-stitution, the coun-try, coun-ter-revolutions -- except in each of those c-words," the newspaper urged, "please insert the naughty c-word. (The one we're not supposed to say in print.)" It continued, "Now, you're speaking the language of the modern movement."

Ain't life -- sorry, "women's lives" -- grand? This psychotic "spoken-word poetry" must be what the Post had in mind when it described the rally as being "aggressive and even occasionally, almost delightfully, profane." Or maybe it was its observation that "every obscene gesture or slogan or T-shirt comes with Magic-Markered flowers or bubbly lettering." All of which is to say, how aggressively occasional! How profanely almost delightful!

From Uterus the Menace (described above), to the T-shirt emblazoned "Cute Guys for Women's Lives" -- "and he was cute," gushed the Post -- to a banner of marching medical students proclaiming "We are tomorrow's abortion providers," what is most striking about the ghoulish March for Women's Lives is not that it was a heavily attended rally in favor of abortion rights. Rather, it is its massive "blue"-state-style effort to take abortion from the pitiful shadows of human history to a place in the cultural sun where it is meant to exist as a sacred right of enlightened womanhood -- something to celebrate. And this the Post style piece does with gusto, with its protest idyll of "happy, combative squeals," Powerpuff Girls, their "best boyfriends and husbands ever (with) perfect three-day stubble," and a Gloria Steinem who "practically glowed."

Maybe it is one thing to wrangle over the moral and spiritual price of abortion; it is very much another to elevate abortion into a cause for righteous glee as the March for Women's Lives did. "Carole King came on just as the wind picked up, and reminded the crowd, a capella, what it feels like when the earth moves under your feet," the Post wrote in closing, waxing dangerously lyrical. "Such an old chestnut, this endless abortion debate, yet it all sounded somehow renewed."

Whether this triggers a blue-state tingle, or a red-state chill, is there anyone who thinks the ultimate image of abortion is renewal?