UPDATE (Photos!): March for Life: DC Live-blogging
BY Steven D. Greydanus
| Posted 1/25/11 at 12:19 PM
Added: Lots more march coverage linked at Michelle Malkin’s website … including a link to this post. (Welcome, Michelle Malkin readers!)
It’s Tuesday morning. Got in last night around 10:30pm.
After leaving the March and taking the Metro back to our car, we drove about an hour and stopped at a rest area to get gas and supper. The place was packed—and it didn’t take us long to realize that the crowds were pretty much all us. Young people in pro-life T-shirts, sisters in habits, priests filled the restaurants. You don’t see that every day.
So far the only mainstream coverage of the March I’ve seen has been from the Washington Post and CNN.com. The Post piece isn’t bad, actually, and even CNN.com’s piece is better than last year’s, though that’s not saying much. The catch is that both stories are in their paper’s religion blogs (WaPo’s On Faith blog and CNN.com’s Belief blog) rather than as an ordinary news story.
Both stories make it clear in the headlines who the story is about: “Thousands of abortion opponents rally in march on Mall,” says the Post, and CNN.com says, “Thousands rally against abortion on Capitol Hill.” Here’s the lede on the Post story:
Thousands of bundled-up abortion opponents rallied Monday on the Mall, encouraged by recent federal and state GOP wins and hopeful about proposed measures that would further tighten bans on federal funding for abortions.
It should say “tens of thousands” at least, but in general it’s a decent story. They do mention that the morning Masses at Verizon Center and the the D.C. Armory were attended by “more than 27,000 young people”—and that this was the first time the Mass was extended to a second venue, which suggests that attendance is climbing.
Specific signs and buttons are mentioned:
Some signs and buttons were evergreen: “De-fund Planned Parenthood,” “I was adopted not aborted” and “I regret my abortion.” Others mentioned President Obama, whom the movement hopes will be challenged by recently elected conservatives. “Stop the Obama abortion agenda,” a common sign said.
And there’s attention given to the high percentage of young participants:
Annual events tend to focus on mobilizing the young, and Catholic high schools, youth groups and colleges were out in force Monday in Washington. …
Some attending the events Monday said that more young people appeared to be participating than in previous years.
Among them was Sister Marilyn Minter, a nun and youth leader from the Newark archdiocese. She stood outside Verizon Center because she couldn’t get a ticket for the concert and Mass.
“It’s reverence for life,” Minter said of the reason for what she saw as more energy among Catholic youths. “It’s interesting to me to see young kids want to respect life at every single level - birth to death.”
So, all in all, a pretty good story. There’s also a photo gallery that opens with an appealing image of energized young girls in matching pro-life hats, and includes at least one image that gives at least some sense of the size of the crowd.
CNN.com’s story isn’t that good. There’s one photo, and while at least they didn’t lead with a photo of pro-choicers, they managed to take a shot of exactly one pro-lifer praying in front of the Supreme Court building. And while they mentioned the counterprotesters, at least this year they made it clear that that’s what they were:
About 15 abortion rights supporters stood outside the Supreme Court building as the march unfolded. They chanted and held signs of their own, imploring the court and Congress to keep abortion legal.
U.S. Capitol Police said there were no arrests as a result of the march and counterprotest.
About my conversation with that pro-choice sign-holder who wants to abort babies with birth defects. I walked over to talk to him after my son David told me he had been listening to the guy talk to other pro-lifers, and that he thought the guy was crazy but other people weren’t answering him well.
Our conversation went something like this. After greeting him pleasantly, I asked, “Are you also in favor of killing born babies with birth defects?”
“I’m in favor of letting people with birth defects decide if they want to die when they reach 18” was his somewhat unexpected but unsurprising answer.
“What about unborn people with birth defects?” I countered. “Why don’t you want to let them decide when they’re 18?”
“We draw a line at birth. Before birth, the parents can decide; after birth, the child can decide when he’s 18.”
“You draw a line at birth; other people draw different lines. Peter Singer of Princeton says parents should have a few weeks after birth to decide whether to keep newborns or kill them. On what grounds do you say he’s wrong?”
“Well, maybe he’s not wrong,” he rejoined. “I don’t necessarily disagree with Peter Singer.”
“But Singer doesn’t restrict it to babies with birth defects. He says parents should be able to kill even healthy newborns if they want.”
“Well, I disagree with that. At least a healthy newborn has a better chance of growing up to have a happy life.”
“Then what about unborn babies without birth defects? Don’t they have the same chance to grow up to have a happy life? Are you against letting them get aborted?”
At this point he said, “I admit I’m not totally consistent. I contradict myself somewhat.” At which point I shook his hand, got his name, and said I’d pray for him. Pray for Mike, and the rest of those who embrace the culture of death.
4:00. Doubled back in front of Supreme Court building, and yup, there are a few pro-choice counter-demonstrators. Maybe half a dozen. They are absolutely surrounded by a sea of pro-lifers, absolutely cheek to jowl. The pro-choicers are silent; all around them are chanting, happy pro-lifers.
Oh wait. There’s a confrontation after all. A pro-life man is talking about how his mother chose to have him in spite of cancer. “But that was her choice!” says a pro-choice woman.
Someone says “You could be aborting the next president!”
“Or the next Hitler!” says the pro-choice woman.
“But either way,” I speak up, “you’re killing a human being.” Silence from both groups. “Whether it’s the next president or the next Hitler,” I repeat, “it’s a human being.” More silence. The conversation goes in another direction.
4:15. I just had a partially satisfying and partially frustrating conversation with a man holding a hand-written sign saying “Keep abortion legal for babies with birth defects.” Too long to relate via iPhone. I’ll write more later.
Two hours later, the line is still moving down First past the Supreme Court building. Behind me a group kneels by the Supreme Court steps praying a rosary. To one side is Silent No More, and women who had abortions are telling their stories. Chants in the street are loud. No one is paying any attention to the half-dozen or so pro-choicers, except maybe the media.
3:40. We’ve now passed the Supreme Court building, about an hour earlier than last year—but we weren’t at the end of the line this year, and the line is still going strong. No end in sight.
3:30. A Latino group is here with a large Guadalupe image on a litter. (Correction: Sarah tells me I’m remembering wrong, that it was Our Lady of Fatima, not Guadalupe. She’s never wrong about these things, so I must be.) They’re shouting “Viva Cristo Rey!” and “Salve Regina!” Off to our right I can hear what sounds like the Neo-Catechumenal Way. Yep, that’s them. Right next to them are the Rabbis for Life.
Our homemade signs have been much admired and much photographed.
3:20. Constitution and First. Almost at the end. There’s a major Eastern Orthodox contingent convening at the corner of Constitution and First, but I can’t hear a word they’re saying over the youth chants in the street.
I’ve talked to a dozen policemen or so. The most common estimate is 50 to 100 thousand. The police haven’t seen any pro-choice people here either. Maybe it’s too cold for them.
3:00. After standing around for another ten minutes, we decided we didn’t feel like being at the end of the line again ... and so we, um, cheated. We circled around the massive crowd in the field until we got to where the line was moving, and sort of merged in. Hey, I’m a journalist, I need to be in the middle of the story.
So here I am in the middle of Constitution Avenue. I can’t see the end of the crowd in either direction.
There’s the Tradition, Family and Property people, in full Scots regalia, playing bagpipes and such. Behind me a guy is chanting “Hey, Obama, your mama chose life!” The LifeSiteNews people are standing at the curb chanting “We love babies, yes we do! We love babies, how ‘bout you?”
All day I’ve been asking people if they’ve seen any pro-choice signs or heard from anyone who has. No one had. A few people have said, “There will be a few at the Supreme Court building.”
2:15. The March actually started on time this year—and we happened to be standing right in the stream that started moving first—but now we’re stopped dead. There’s just too many people. How many? Tens of thousands, certainly. I’ve talked to other people who think it’s in the hundreds of thousands. Too many to march, anyway.
As usual, they saved some of the best speakers for the end: the black Baptist, Rabbi Levin. Rabbi Levin had an unsettling story about being turned away from a Christian pro-life students group. He chose a zinger of an idiom: There was “no room at the inn” for his pro-life rabbis group. Yikes. Don’t know what that was about, but the pro-life movement needs to bring together Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, atheists, everyone.
The field behind me is clearing—and I’m struck by what I don’t see: no litter. At all. An emcee put out a plea for people to pick up their litter, and it’s all gone. I’ve never seen that before.
2:20. There’s a praise band singing while we stand here—or there was, I think they’ve wrapped up. Now they’re playing canned rock. Earlier a soloist did a rendition of God Bless America, and a few voices in the crowd tried to sing along—but she did too much ad libbing, so the other voices died out. I think the March would benefit from more participatory interaction - songs we can sing, instead of just being sung to.
2:30 Still not moving.
I’m disappointed to have missed the roll call of Catholic bishops in attendance.
12:45. Emerging from train at L’Enfant in a sea of pro-life people, mostly college age and high schoolers, many with chaperones in Roman collars.
I see signs ahead on the street: I Regret My Abortion. Choose Life. Men Regret Lost Fatherhood.
At the march. The crowd is big enough that we can’t get anywhere near the stage. I can’t see the speakers; I’m not even sure whether we’re in front of the stage or in back of it.
The current speaker says that in his 11 marches there are more congressmen here than ever.
I see large banners for Christendom College. Steubenville. Lutherans for Life. ByzanTEENS For Life (cute!). Warriors of the Word Youth Group. Knights For Life, High School, Mishawaka, IN. Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
Speakers from all over: Texas, Mississippi, New Jersey, Indiana, Kansas ...every speaker brings roars of local approval. The crowd is from all over too. Scriptural quotations abound from speakers.
12 noon. Bad accident on I-95 delayed us for over an hour. We’ve just arrived at Green Belt Station and are on our way to L’Enfant Station. There’s a group of a dozen or so young people on the train with us who are clearly headed to the March. They’re in good spirits, goofing around and commenting admiringly on our homemade signs.
We caught an early morning Mass at a random church on the road before coming in, and prayed the whole rosary on the drive down. It’s a long drive and even the rosary is short by comparison.
With me are an adult friend from church, my two oldest children and two of my son’s friends from church. They are also in high spirits in spite of the fact that for the duration of the March I’ve put a moratorium on my son’s and his friend’s obsessive discussions of weapons and military subjects. As hard as it may be for them to find another subject to talk about, I’ve decided that we aren’t going to be carrying pro-life signs and talking about killing people! (I don’t know where David gets the gun thing from ... and I don’t necessarily mind, but there’s a time and place for everything.)
This year’s March for Life in DC will be my third consecutive year attending (plus at least one previous year), and my second year in a row live-blogging from the March. I think I learned a little from last year’s live-blogging, and I’m looking forward to reporting again from the March this year. For those of you who can’t attend, I hope my updates give you something of a feel for being there, and I hope you’ll join your prayers with our efforts.
I also reported last year on the usual media distortions of the March. I think the most mendacious reportage I saw was from CNN.com, which opened with the lede, “Abortion rights supporters and opponents hit the streets of the nation’s capital Friday to mark the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade…” There were tens or hundreds of thousands of pro-life demonstrators and a tiny handful of counter-demonstrators; most people I talked to had no idea there were any counter-demonstrators and certainly hadn’t seen any. But CNN’s two-photo slideshow started with a photo of the few pro-choicers there, and followed up with a single shot of some pro-lifers that gave no indication of the multiple orders of magnitude between the two groups.
This year, it will be even more obvious that we are the event and they are the counter-demonstrators, the footnote. Why? Because the anniversary of Roe v. Wade was on Saturday, but the March has been moved to Monday. Why? Because the March organizers don’t want to hold the event on a weekend when our representatives in DC are all gone. They want us to be as visible as possible. So our organizers moved the March. We chose Monday instead of Saturday or Friday. Whatever pro-choice demonstrators show up today will be there because we decided to march today. If they were their own independent thing, they could have chosen to march Saturday, Friday or whenever. But they aren’t. They’re watching us to see what we do.
In this age of new media, it’s just not possible for the mainstream media to totally silence the truth. But they can muffle it. They can ignore it. They’ve been doing it for years.
It promises to be cold. Tonight it’s going down as low as 14 degrees, and it looks like it won’t get out of the twenties tomorrow.
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