Something odd happened on the way to the 44th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. It’s something that, for the most part, has never happened in all the years the hundreds of thousands of dedicated pro-lifers have been gathering to speak up against the infamous Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion through nine months of pregnancy.
That strange occurrence can be summed up in three words: increased, serious, and substantial secular media coverage.
I have been privileged to be part of the live television coverage for the EWTN global network for several years now. However, outside of Catholic media and some conservative outlets, most of the secular networks and journalists have acted as if we don’t exist. The coverage has been miniscule at best, with barely a few blips on the news radar screen. As a matter of fact, the media watchdog group Media Research Center recently reported that the major broadcast networks (ABC, NBC, and CBS) gave some 4,518 seconds of news coverage to the January 21st, “Women’s March” in D.C. and a mere 35 seconds—yes, you’re reading correctly, only 35 seconds of news coverage—to the 2016 international March for Life.
But a few days before this year’s pro-life march there was a change. It began with President Trump chastising ABC News (and the press in general) about their lack of coverage for the annual March for Life. It was surreal seeing the President of the United States not only referencing the March for Life during a national prime time interview but basically issuing a challenge to secular journalists around the country. And many of them responded to that challenge.
This was evident when I arrived at the March location the morning of the event. It was barely 8:30am and already I had done two major radio interviews, including a 20-minute interview on a secular news-talk station in my hometown of Detroit. A Catholic radio colleague of mine sent out an e-mail summarizing some of the other coverage around Michigan including local TV stations, that for the first time ever, interviewed students and others who were on their way to Washington. Similar situations were being described in media markets across the country concerning local network affiliates actually leading their morning newscasts with story after story about the March for Life. Upon hearing this I had the feeling that I was living in some sort of alternate universe.
What might have led to the media suddenly discovering a major march that has been happening in the dead of winter for over four decades? In many ways they were forced to cover it because of the presence of Vice President Mike Pence and Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway at the huge rally that precedes the March each year. As a result of the two key members of the new administration addressing the crowds, all of the major broadcast and cable news networks carried the Vice President’s comments live.
Pro-lifers also took a cue from President Donald Trump’s social media playbook by taking to social media—so much so that the March for Life was trending number at #1 on Twitter and Facebook for most of the day this past Friday.
While the tide seems to be slowly turning, it’s still quite obvious that we have a lot of work to do. One example of this was TIME magazine’s recent cover story. Complete with a large image of the now infamous pink pussycat hats worn by women attending the other January march, the publication proudly proclaimed in a major headline; “The Resistance Rises: How a March Became a Movement.” Seriously? One march with all sorts of vulgar messages, most of them focused on abortion, but one march and TIME claims a movement has begun?
And the pro-lifers have been at this for 44 years and until now have barely been a blip on the media’s radar screen. Ours is a march that indeed formed a movement. And it’s a movement that has been consistently bringing together hundreds of thousands of dedicated people annually not only in Washington but in cities across the country and around globe. It is a movement that represents all sorts of efforts and ministries that are helping women in unplanned pregnancies and working to restrict and eventually end abortion.
Yes, a funny thing did happen on the way to the March for Life this year. But it shouldn’t have taken the President calling out the press, a Twitter storm, or talks by top White House officials to get the media to provide substantial media coverage. The sudden interest in long-time pro-life activism is certainly welcome, but it’s no laughing matter that it took this long for it to occur.
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