Each January, pro-life marchers gather to serve as a voice for the voiceless. And, this year, the networks should follow suit by broadcasting their voices – with more than a few minutes or seconds.
On Friday, tens of thousands – if not hundreds of thousands – of Americans from across the country will attend the 46th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. The rally celebrates life, especially of the unborn. Occurring around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in the United States, the event also condemns abortion.
But in the past six years, the march has attracted fewer than 30 minutes total of coverage from the broadcast network news shows of ABC, CBS, and NBC.
This year, the march’s theme, “Unique from Day One: Pro-life is Pro-science,” stresses that science supports the pro-life movement – from revealing unique DNA at fertilization to showing that an unborn baby’s heart beats at six weeks.
The 2019 march stands out because of its congressional speakers: both Democrats and Republicans will take the stage. They include Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), and State Rep. Katrina Jackson (D-LA).
“The right to life is a non-partisan issue and, regardless of politics, we should all unite for life and stand against abortion, the greatest human rights abuse of our time,” announced Jeanne Mancini, the March for Life president, in a Jan. 8 press release.
And, hopefully, the 2019 event will stand out in one more way: media coverage. Despite high-profile speakers like the president, abortion’s relevancy in the news, and the march’s status as one of the nation’s largest rallies, many in the media routinely downplay or misrepresent the march and its attendees.
March for Life Network Coverage
One of the greatest examples comes from the morning and evening news shows of the three broadcast networks: ABC, CBS, and NBC. The networks reveal their priorities with the time they spend covering stories. Some of their biggest discrepancies appear when comparing their coverage of the March for Life to other events, like the Women’s March.
The two events have much in common, attracting large crowds while occurring annually in Washington, D.C., in January. But there’s one thing they don’t share: the same amount of media coverage.
Even with a live address from President Trump via satellite at the 2018 march, ABC, CBS, and NBC spent just 3 minutes, 46 seconds on the 45th annual March for Life. In comparison, they dedicated 25 minutes, 24 seconds to the second Women’s March (nearly seven times more).
The year before that, in 2017, the networks gave considerably more time to the pro-life: 21 minutes, 52 seconds to the event where both Vice President Mike Pence and White House special counselor Kellyanne Conway spoke. While newly-elected President Trump didn’t attend, he tweeted support and called on the press in an ABC interview for coverage. Still, in comparison, the networks offered 1 hour, 15 minutes, 18 seconds (3.4 times more) to the Women’s March.
In 2016, the networks gave a mere 35 seconds (22 seconds following the march, 13 seconds before). The year before, only CBS covered the march, sparing just 15 seconds. The networks squeezed in 46 seconds for 2014 (at the same time, they spent six times that on the National Zoo’s panda cub and four-and-a-half times that on the Climate March). For 2013, the networks offered just 17 seconds during their news shows.
Here’s the breakdown, in time:
March for Life
2013: 17 seconds
2014: 46 seconds
2015: 15 seconds
2016: 35 seconds
2017: 21 minutes, 52 seconds
2018: 3 minutes, 46 seconds
Total: 27 minutes, 31 seconds
2018: 25 minutes, 24 seconds
Total: 1 hour, 40 minutes, 42 seconds
The 2019 March for Life Is Relevant
The media have every reason to cover March for Life in 2019. In addition to the large number of attendees and big name speakers, abortion is an issue Americans care about.
A Gallup poll released June 2018 found the number of Americans who identify as pro-life rose to 48%, tying with the percentage of those who call themselves pro-choice. In January 2019, Students for Life’s Institute for Pro-Life Advancement released a poll by The Polling Company, Inc./WomanTrend that found “7 of 10 Millennials support limits on abortion.” A Marist poll released Jan. 15 also discovered “Three in four Americans (75 percent) say abortion should be limited to – at most – the first three months of pregnancy.”
Abortion has also appeared in the news in a big way this past year.
Last November, the CDC published its 2015 Abortion Surveillance report showing a national abortion decline. That same month, Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, welcomed its new president, Leana Wen, who says abortion is the “core mission” of her organization. And, with the 2018 nomination and confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Americans – along with the media – are keeping a watchful eye on Roe v. Wade today.
Let’s hope that, this year, the media’s attention extends to the 2019 March for Life. Not only to pro-life Americans and the marchers, but also for whom they represent: the unborn.