JivinJehoshaphat and Nicole Russell question whether the annual March for Life is a worthwhile expenditure of money and effort. I’m not a fan of the March as it is currently constituted, but I think that it still has the potential to be a useful pro-life tool.
It seems to me that there are several functions that marches can serve:
- Getting the attention of policy-makers; demonstrating that you can mobilize a lot of people for your cause, so they’d best pay attention. (The cynic in me whispers that these days, if the marchers brought $100 each, they might be taken a bit more seriously.)
- Energizing and refreshing activists.
- Introducing an issue or a movement to those who don’t know much about it.
- Showing members of the general public who share your belief that they aren’t alone, that there is a movement they can join and people they can work with.
I don’t think the March for Life succeeds at the first function — if it did, it wouldn’t be in its 35th year — but then again, I don’t believe that’s a realistic expectation for marches anymore. Marches have become commonplace, even passé; they no longer make people sit up and take notice the way they did in the 60s. Recall that over a million Americans marched against the Iraq War in February 2003, and were dismissed by Our Only President (tm Molly Ivins) as akin to a “focus group” that he need not bother listening to.
On the second point, there is no doubt that the March and the various meetings and conferences that surround it allow activists to connect with each other and renew their enthusiasm for the work that needs to be done in the year ahead. However, it could serve this function even better if all members of pro-life community were welcomed and allowed to contribute their ideas. As it stands, the March is largely for conservative Christians (though others may attend if they don’t call attention to the fact that they’re different).
Far from showcasing the diversity of the pro-life movement, Nellie Gray actively rejects any responsibility to do so. That’s why the March fails at the last two functions. It shows the public only one aspect of the pro-life movement — the very conservative, Christian, pro-Republican, mostly white side — and doesn’t invite anyone who doesn’t fit that description to join, even if they are in agreement that abortion is the taking of a human life.
We need public events like marches, but we need them to be open and inviting. At its best, the pro-life movement is about inclusivity, about embracing all human beings as part of Us. Our public face should reflect that.
(ETA: I read shortly after posting this that Nellie Gray had been taken to the hospital. All differences aside, I certainly wish her the best.)