Thousands of anti-abortion advocates marched in Washington, D.C., on Friday as part of the March for Life, a yearly protest against legal abortion that has taken place since 1974, a year after the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision recognized a woman’s right to privacy includes the right to make her own medical decisions, including the termination of her pregnancy, free from state interference.
Marchers were emboldened this year by the election of Donald Trump. Trump ran on a decidedly anti-abortion platform and he chose abortion opponent and former Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his vice president. Pence gave a speech at the March for Life rally, as did Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway. Trump did not attend but he did tweet in support of the march.
The #MarchForLife is so important. To all of you marching — you have my full support!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 27, 2017
According to NPR, Conway’s speech invoked language found in the Declaration of Independence in expressing her opposition to abortion.
“It is no coincidence that the first right cited in the Declaration of Independence is the right to life,” Conway said. “It is a right; it is not a privilege; it is not a choice. It is God-given.”
The transcript of Mike Pence’s speech before the March for Life crowd on Life Site reveals that the Vice President’s speech had much of the same rhetorical flavor.
“More than 240 years ago, our founders wrote words that have echoed through the ages,” Pence said. “They declared these truths to be self-evident that we are, all of us, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 44 years ago, our Supreme Court turned away from the first of these timeless ideals.”
Pence’s speech before the March for Life crowd continued in much the same way, including his contention that the electoral success of Donald Trump and congressional Republicans suggests that Americans are turning away from acceptance of abortion rights in favor of “compassion for the women and children of America,” which he apparently equates with the full prohibition of abortion.
Conspicuously absent from Pence’s and Conway’s speeches, and absent from the official March for Life website, is anything substantial about the need to provide adequate healthcare for lives once they’re no longer in the womb. Conway’s speech made no mention and Pence’s speech made only passing mention of women’s healthcare.
“That’s why this administration will work with the Congress to end taxpayer funding of abortion and of abortion providers,” Pence said. “We will devote those resources to healthcare services for women across America.”
Planned Parenthood is an organization that already provides vital healthcare services for millions of women across the United States, and the GOP congress and Trump/Pence administration have plans to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood. According to its website, Planned Parenthood provides healthcare services to nearly 5 million men, women, and children in the United States. If a commitment to “life” means opposing abortion at the expense of vital healthcare for women, as well as children and men, it’s really not much of a commitment to life at all. It’s a commitment to one’s arbitrary moral standards.
Writing in Religious News Service, Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, explains why he did not join the March for Life.
“The sanctity of life includes the sanctity of women’s lives — a point of view that will likely not be represented at the march,” O’Brien writes. “In fact, the March for Life has historically failed to include the sanctity of women’s lives. Inconvenient facts have, time and again, been omitted or ignored because the reality of the anti-abortion stance raises some very uncomfortable truths as to what would happen if our laws really reflected the extreme anti-abortion position.
“The disrespect the bishops and their allies show for the moral agency of women to know and make their own choices is painfully obvious.”
O’Brien goes on to cite the recent “Mexico City Policy,” an executive order signed by Donald Trump to pull federal funding from international healthcare NGOs (non-governmental organizations) which provide or even facilitate abortions for impoverished women even if that is not the organization’s sole focus, and attempts to pass the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortion care, as indications that the March for Life and its political allies are less concerned with life than they are with virtue signaling over abortion.
March for Life organizers, anti-choice politicians, and others who seek the end of legal abortion seem more concerned with the unborn than they do with the living. Writing in The Guardian, George Monbiot writes that contrary to the arguments put forth by anti-abortion advocates, studies suggest the prevalence of abortion actually rises in places where abortion is outlawed. Such data suggests that those who oppose abortion, rather than protesting its legality, should be supporting programs where abortion remains an option but services such as contraception, family planning, and adoption are also available — programs such as Planned Parenthood.
The singular aim of the March for Life, to restrict access to abortion in hopes of eliminating it entirely, is not only dangerous to the lives of women, but also ignores the fact that life is about much more than birth.
[Featured Image by Andrew Harnik/AP Images]