With the president as a speaker, online media generously covered the March for Life this year – but many reports left much to be desired.
The March for Life annually celebrates life and challenges abortion around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide. Each year, tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of Americans travel from around the country to Washington, D.C. to serve as a voice for the voiceless, despite the often harsh weather conditions. This year’s theme stressed that “Life Empowers: Pro-Life Is Pro-Woman.” But Americans wouldn’t know that by reading reports from outlets like NPR or PBS, which also said that just “thousands” attended.
The media understandably focused on President Trump, the first U.S. president in history to speak at the March for Life in person. But in doing so, many missed the opportunity to share the broader message of what the pro-life movement stands for: that every person has inherent dignity and worth, including the unborn and, as the theme reminded, including women.
Even the president highlighted the pro-woman theme in his remarks and acknowledged that the pro-life movement is “led by strong women,” among others.
“This year, the March for Life is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which forever enshrined women’s rights to vote in the United States,” President Trump stressed. “Today, millions of extraordinary women across America are using the power of their votes to fight for the right, and all of their rights, as given in the Declaration of Independence –- it’s the right to life.”
He added, “To all the women here today: Your devotion and your leadership uplifts our entire nation, and we thank you for that.”
The media didn’t latch onto those words about women – not even for the sake of criticism. Instead, for NPR, national correspondent Sarah McCammon reported that just “thousands of anti-abortion rights activists” would march. This comes even though the March for Life has estimated that 100,000 Americans have attended in recent years, based on data from WMATA, bus permits, and the National Park Service – and that’s without the president’s added presence.
Her piece focused on Trump – but not his comments about the suffragists or women.
“Trump's appearance before thousands of mostly supportive anti-abortion rights activists comes at a key moment — during the impeachment trial, and just months to go before the 2020 election,” she reported.
A PBS NewsHour also focused on the impeachment trial in its headline about the march: “In the biggest fight of his life, Trump basks in support at March for Life.”
Digital politics reporter Candice Norwood also ignored the theme. Like McCammon, she estimated that only “Thousands descended on Washington, D.C.”
HuffPost’s headline complained, “Trump Turns The March For Life Into A Campaign Rally.” Reporter Marina Fang made no mention of the theme, but she did cite President Trump as saying there was a “tremendous turnout” with “thousands and thousands” of attendees.
But her quote overlooked the context of his remarks. President Trump said that “Thousands and thousands wanted to get in” to the rally. But for the entire event, he said that “tens of thousands” were there to march – and he repeated the “tens of thousands” number four times throughout his speech.
Other media outlets didn’t comment on the number, but they still missed the march’s message.
The New York Times’ headline read, “Trump Tells Anti-Abortion Marchers, ‘Unborn Children Have Never Had a Stronger Defender in the White House.’” Inside, correspondents Elizabeth Dias, Annie Karni, and Sabrina Tavernise made no mention of the women-centric theme.
“I think allowing women access to abortion gives them more opportunities,” Sara McConnell told the paper.
The theme is relevant at a time when women lead the national pro-life movement, from Jeanne Mancini of the March for Life to Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List. Abortion also affects women in unique ways, from unborn baby girls targeted in sex-selective abortions to women who regret their abortions. The March for Life recognizes them – and the media should too.