After having made the trip from Miami to attend, it made me sad that this year’s March for Life in Washington, D.C. should be reduced to one troubling encounter and its ugly online aftermath. What a great shame.
I’ve attended the March for Life each year for some time, and I’ve even been a speaker on the main stage. It’s hard to convey just how wholesome, how cheerful and sweet the entire event is. The marchers consider themselves participants in the noble American tradition of peaceful civil rights demonstrations. They believe they are involved in a civil rights struggle no less important than those of the 1960’s. The setting – the imposing monuments and the wide mall rising to the capitol—reminds them of our country’s founding ideals and the many men and women who have worked tirelessly over the years to make them a reality. These marchers consider themselves honest workers in the same historic vineyard.
The marchers are invariably cheerful. Smiles adorn almost every face. It is a happy thing to be in an enormous crowd of people who share your principles and your passion. Being ardently pro-life can be a lonely affair for those who may live surrounded by pro-abortion friends and co-workers. At the March for Life, however everyone loves babies and the women who face challenging pregnancies. Everyone understands that those loves are not mutually exclusive.
There is, as well, a unity across race and class. Pro-life chants in Spanish compete with the more sedate chants in English. There is also unity across life experiences. In this crowd, women who have had abortions carry signs expressing their sadness, and youngsters who believe abortion is murder are filled with compassion for these grieving mothers. On the stage last week, a doctor who had performed thousands of abortions that she now regrets was treated with hushed respect by a crowd awed by her brave witness. Amazing Grace!
Unlike the Women’s March, the March for Life is rated G for general audiences. Not one foul word, not a single vulgar phrase, not one aggressive sign amid the tens – perhaps hundreds - of thousands of pro-life participants. This is good in and of itself, but also because the March for Life is filled with children and adolescents. Many come from those large families that we hardly see these days, with stepladders of siblings big to small. The teenagers come in bus and planeloads from across the country – including a couple hundred mostly Hispanic kids from Miami. Schools and parishes organize these, and these pilgrimages are expensive and exhausting for the organizers. The trips are also expensive for the students’ families, but they feel they are investing in a wonderful learning opportunity for their kids.
The Covington boys were on one of these excursions, and they had the bad luck of undergoing the trickiest part of peaceful protest: encounters with counter-protesters. After the uplifting and happy experience of the long march to the Supreme Court – after being surrounded by kindliness – the Covington students faced a group of men calling themselves Hebrew Israelites who proceeded to taunt and heckle the boys. They subjected the students to obscenities many too foul to list here. The counter-protestors harassed a black student in the Covington group – using the “n” word – and called the other students “young Klansmen” and “incest children.” Put into its proper context, the famous “smirk” of the Covington boy who had a drum thrust in his face seems a model of heroic, non-violent restraint, especially for a youngster. I’ve had trouble keeping my cool when I’m demonstrating in defense of life and confronted by obscene harassment. This has happened to me many times. It’s part of the territory, but it’s difficult and disheartening, and I’m an adult.
Also disheartening is the silence by most mainstream media outlets. Many ignore or downplay these pro-life events, even when more than 100,000 people participate and the Vice President of the United States attends. Unless, of course, a video – or a snippet of video that can be taken out of context – emerges and can be manipulated to manufacture a false narrative. All of this is disheartening, though it will not deter us from marching again next year, and the year after, and until we have come to a place in our culture where abortion is unthinkable.
Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie is a Policy Advisor for The Catholic Association.