WASHINGTON — Before heading off to Thursday’s March for Life, I checked the Washington Post to see if it mentioned the event in any news story. Nope. Thousands of pro-lifers descending on the nation’s capital apparently doesn’t qualify as news at the Post.
Many of the thousands at the march were teenagers. Had they been sweeping down Constitution Avenue to demand free-condom legislation, the Post might have previewed the march. But thousands of teens protesting Roe v. Wade? That certainly isn’t an event of any great moment.
ABC News used the anniversary of Roe v. Wade as an occasion to explore the urgent subject of “Christian Terrorists,” though the Associated Press did generously observe that “Abortion Demonstrators Mark Roe v. Wade.” Not pro-lifers, notice, but “abortion demonstrators.”
The press perked up a little when President George Bush phoned the marchers from the road — “Roswell, New Mexico,” I believe he said — a location journalists who consider pro-lifers a form of alien life must have appreciated. The press have always enjoyed this venerable Republican presidential tradition of distant phone contact with pro-lifers. Though the march begins near the Ellipse, a stone’s throw from the White House, Republican presidents have never managed to make the event. They always seem to be out of town. But they do make sure to call. (What if a Republican president, for some reason, couldn’t leave town on the day of the March for Life? Then what would he do? Call the march-goers from his office while looking at them outside his window?)
The crowd seemed to appreciate Bush’s call. When he said that he had banned the “brutal procedure” of partial-abortion, it erupted. “Michigan Loves Our Pro-Life President,” said one banner. March-goers also carried signs saying “Thank You, President Bush.”
Several congressmen showed up to the march. With a sizable Pennsylvania pro-life contingent in attendance, the march was a veritable campaign stop for Pennsylvania Congressman Pat Toomey. He didn’t mention Arlen Specter, the useless to destructive Pennsylvania senator he hopes to unseat, but did say that pro-lifers need to “reclaim the Senate.”
Kansas pro-lifers trekked to the march and were rewarded with appearances by Kansas Congressman Jim Ryun and Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, among others. Kansas was far better represented than Maryland, the historically Catholic state which now boasts a whopping one pro-life congressman.
To his credit, given that most Republican senators avoid the march like the plague, Minnesota senator Norm Coleman showed up. Used to Arctic weather, he arrived without overcoat, noting the “warm” Washington, D.C. day.
Someone on the podium made the apt remark that a Congress which can protect unborn turtles should be able to protect unborn children.
Then came the clerics. Nothing memorable was said, save for one rabbi’s warning to avoid the “tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”
But it was good to see John Kerry’s bishop in attendance, Sean Patrick O’Malley, the new head of the Boston archdiocese. Will O’Malley follow the lead of Raymond Burke, the La Crosse, Wisconsin bishop, who recently told pro-abortion Catholic pols to shape up or stop coming to communion?
March for Life organizers handed out a flier urging the bishops to stop sitting on their hands. “A Message For Our Bishops: The Way of La Crosse Leads To Life,” it said.
Though an ecumenical event, the March for Life in its organization and participation is largely Catholic. The march gives off a glimmer of the cultural potency the Church once enjoyed and could recover if the bishops got serious about their duties. It is striking that even in its weakened state Catholicism is driving the pro-life movement. Were the whole Church at every level pro-life, its cultural impact would be colossal. The Tom Daschles and Ted Kennedys, as they looked outside their offices and saw a sea of pro-lifers on Constitution Avenue, must have trembled a bit, wondering how long they can get away with their pro-abortion Catholicism.
The marchers looked for the most part like Reagan Democrats, Catholics from the working class who have no choice but to vote Republican as the Dems become more and more the proud party of abortion. One marcher wore a hard hat emblazoned with a cross and a pro-life slogan. When the marchers passed construction workers atop one government building, the construction workers cheered.
The police seemed happy with the marchers too. “Everybody has been peaceful,” I heard one say. The police could loll about like journalists. One television journalist was so disengaged from the event he was watching “The Price Is Right” in his truck.
Doped-up teens smashing in a Starbucks might have gotten his attention. But this was obviously a non-event, just thousands of young people, among others, asking the wise men of Washington to end the million-plus abortions a year.
George Neumayr is managing editor of The American Spectator.