Cold weather and rosary-bead sightings were just about all the secular reporters appeared concerned with at this year’s national March for Life, many of them drawing more attention to the chill in the air than to pro-lifers’ resilient reasons to bear it. And that was when they reported on it at all. But chilling, whatever the journalists say, was the last thing marchers were doing this year, with the event’s overwhelmingly youthful crowd stretching over a mile on Constitution Avenue, voicing slogans that were resolute and bold, but not, as many would prefer to believe, “angry.”
Along with banners representing university pro-life groups and parish committees, something of the contemporary pro-life tone was evident in the protest signs on display. One light-hearted favorite was “Chuck Norris is Pro-Life,” and a more serious one read, “Children’s Rights End at Conception.” But none, however light or serious, were so unbecoming as the pained and agitated slogans so often heard at pro-abortion rallies, on the increasingly rare occasions they occur. There’s no pro-life equivalent to “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries.”
We can hardly be blamed for giving this a simple explanation. Any coherent social movement must say yes to some ideas and no to others, and pro-lifers say yes to human life and no to the validity of abortion as a choice to end it. But there’s a certain cult of niceness in our public square today, one that says yes to yes and no to no, with the path of least resistance being the primary moral impulse of a “nice” person.
But through common sense, we can see that, for instance, while a toddler’s mother will gain kudos as a “nice” parent for always saying yes to her child, one can hardly blame the child for growing to disrespect figures of moral authority altogether, especially those who say “no.” While pro-lifers remain firm in their “no” to the horror of abortion, the youthful and energetic movement seems impenetrable to slanders of curmudgeonhood and naysaying, and remains cheerful in the fight, preoccupied with the “yes” and not indulgent with their “no.”
If pro-lifers can be cheerful while opposing abortion, it’s not hard to see why pro-abortion rallies are prone to focus their attention on pro-lifers, even while pro-life events always seem to focus, oddly enough, on abortion. If the soft “terminations” of human beings in the womb is complemented by the anger of the pro-choice movement, the tranquil moral assurance of the pro-life cause is the appropriate response to efforts made in anger—whether in abortions themselves, efforts to demonize right-to-lifers as fanatics, or to to glaze over the reality of abortion through the chilling, calculating language of reproductive rights.
After 37 national marches for life and dozens of others across the country, when can we expect mainstream coverage of the pro-life movement, whose gatherings handily dwarf rallies of opposing ideas, and yield crowds more diverse than any of them? Last year, NARAL president Nancy Keenan sighed that she was part of a dwindling “postmenopausal militia” clinging to the abortion-rights cause, amidst alarm about the generational and enthusiasm gap in support for abortion. If the hundreds of thousands of young adults at the March for Life can promise anything with certainty, it’s that the pro-life movement has a long and vital life ahead of it.