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How the Media Covered the March for Life

January 31, 2020

In 1973, advocates for life received a wake-up call when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of abortion in the controversial case, Roe v. Wade. Since that ruling, countless pro-life Americans have attended a peaceful march throughout the streets of Washington, D.C., in the March for Life.

While the March for Life, celebrating its 47th year, has drawn millions of pro-life advocates and supporters to the National Mall over the years, many major media outlets have largely ignored the pro-life demonstration in years past. However, this year, President Donald Trump became the first sitting U.S. President to attend the March for Life in-person, essentially forcing the media to acknowledge the tens-of-thousands of pro-life audience members.

Did the media look beyond the president’s attendance and cover the March itself?

Let’s take a look.

On the day of the 47th annual March for Life—January 24th, 2020—National Review’s Alexandra DeSanctis made this prediction:

There is little doubt that media outlets will pay far more attention to this “anti-choice” march today than they have any other year — out of sight, out of mind — as a result of Trump’s presence, but that coverage will almost certainly be centered on his person and his rhetoric rather than on the purpose of the March, its history, or its aims.

DeSanctis didn’t miss the mark. NPR ran two pieces—one article and one on the radio—declaring the March for Life an “anti-abortion” event, the media’s preferred way of referring to the pro-life movement. NPR’s coverage focused almost exclusively on President Trump and nearly ignored the March itself.

The New York Times took a similar route by focusing only on Trump’s attendance. Here’s how the article opens:

Demonstrators flooded the National Mall on Friday morning in anticipation of a historic moment for the anti-abortion movement: the first sitting president to address the annual March for Life in person.

President Trump did not disappoint them.

Rather than acknowledging that tens of thousands of marchers arrived at the National Mall to show support for the pro-life movement as they have done for 47 straight years, The New York Times inaccurately portrays last Friday’s March for Life as just another Trump rally. But the spin doesn’t stop there. Later in the article, the authors write:

The president accused Democrats of supporting infanticide, singling out Gov. Ralph S. Northam of Virginia for supporting a late-term abortion bill that Mr. Trump falsely said would “execute a baby after birth.”

But isn’t that a basic description of what it means to purposefully deny babies life-saving medical care? As a refresher, here’s what VA Gov. Ralph Northam said during a radio interview last year: “If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

Somehow, The New York Times took that tacit promotion of infanticide and wrote it off as “a messaging strategy.”

However, other media outlets help balance the picture a bit. The Washington Post published a column from former George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen about the importance of the Trump administration’s moves to protect the sanctity of life.

While CNN’s Caroline Kelly wrote a less-than-glowing report on the March for Life, the network also published an opinion piece from Terry Schilling of the American Principles Project, in which Schilling noted that the increased exposure the March for Life received this year puts a spotlight on polling data that indicates America is becoming more pro-life.

In addition to President Trump’s appearance, USA Today gave a brief snapshot of the March for Life:

In an apparent nod to the powerful impact of women voters in the last two elections, the theme for the gathering in this contentious election year is "Life Empower: Pro-life is Pro-Woman."

The march is the centerpiece for three days of activities that include a youth rally, a Christian rock concert and an expo featuring anti-abortion organizations and ministries.

One participant, Frances Floresca, 23, a recent graduate of the University of Utah, called the March for Life “the real Women’s March.” She was wearing a beanie that said, “Love them both.”

“We are fighting for women and babies,” she said. “We’re standing for the women who need to be strong so they don’t get an abortion.”

Both Patricia Carroll, 60, and Bonita Ravolt, 78, arrived from Chicago to attend the March for Life for the third time.

Ravolt, a retired registered nurse, told USA Today that she’s spent the last 25 years protesting against abortion.

“I’m so proud to be here, and see all these beautiful mothers and beautiful fathers,” she said.

The increased media coverage of the March for Life this year is encouraging in at least two ways. First, the large number of Americans who show up each year to speak up for the millions of lives lost due to abortion have an opportunity to share their message with the public at large. Second, it gives other pro-life Americans a reason to keep fighting to protect life with the knowledge that they are not alone in the fight.

Will the media go back to ignoring a pro-life event without a sitting President addressing the crowd in-person? Time will tell, but the March for Life will continue to advocate for the unborn either way.

 

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Alliance Defending Freedom

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