Anyone who attends the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. cant help but see the plain fact that the pro-life movement is young, enthusiastic, and as varied in social makeup as any group that marches on Washington. Perhaps this is the reason the nations media perennially fail to show up to the event; Its just not possible to put credible spin on a tranquil but energetic crowd of 400,000 assembled on a rainy day in Januaryonly to acknowledge their belief that abortion is the greatest moral tragedy of our generation.
Always seeking to outdo themselves, though, some commentators spin efforts verged on the positively batty. CNNs ever-agitated Rick Sanchez, amidst wide-panning shots of thousands of pro-life demonstrators, nervously asked his producer which side of the debate was better represented: Do we know? Only later did he admit regretfully that the bulk of the protesters that we have seen herethat doesnt mean there arent others, because we havent gone out and counted them individuallyseem to be anti-abortion activists. Other media outfits avoided this awkwardness by ignoring the event entirely. One notable exception was CNN, which inexplicably placed a headline photo of the half-dozen pro-choice protesters present, doing its best to portray the event as two-sided. Still worse was Krista Gesamans article in Newsweek claiming the Marchs route was shortened this year due to the advancing age of the pro-life crowd, most of whom, she alleged, are sexagenarians. Her source? A Washington, D.C. police officer planning March logistics. Gesaman then went on to claim that young women are, on the whole, not oriented toward activism, instead taking debates to Facebook and online chat rooms. Her source for this? Kristy Maddux, a professor of historical feminism at the University of Maryland. Gesamans piece went on to insinuate, without evidence, that on account of these posited social trends, the March for Life has a noticeable lack of young female participants. All this mendacity might have been avoided if Gesaman had simply attended the March.
But Newsweek may have done something to redeem its reputation with pro-lifersnot by printing a story we want to hear, but by printing an honest one. Journalist Sarah Kliff begins Remember Roe! by submitting that the recent passage of health care reform marked a turning point: the day when [the abortion-rights community] became acutely aware of their waning influence in Washington. In contrast to Newsweek s earlier claim of an aging pro-life culture, Kliff brings to bear a remark from NARAL president Nancy Keenan, who considers herself part of the postmenopausal militia, a generation of baby-boomer activists.
The medias maddening ignorance of this fact, coupled with their agnosticism towards the March for Life, can be put into perspective by Keenans own run-in with the March. When Keenans train pulled into Washingtons Union Station, a few blocks from the Capitol, she was greeted by a swarm of anti-abortion-rights activists who fill Union Station each year at the Marchs conclusion. I just thought, my gosh, they are so young . . . . There are so many of them, and they are so young. Her fears were confirmed by a NARAL study, which found an intensity gap on the abortion, with young pro-lifers viewing the issue as very important by a margin of 25 percent over young pro-choicers. And despite the abortion lobbys effort to depict abortion as routine, the sons and daughters of baby boomers are more likely to view abortion as a moral issue. The March for Lifes influence may be curbed by the medias disinterest, but if it compelled the president of NARAL to go on record with gallows humor for the pro-choice movement, Id say were getting somewhere.