By Laura Echevarria
Editor’s note. Lauren Enriquez wrote a piece that ran today on the tenth anniversary of the pro-abortion “March for Women’s Lives” in Washington, D.C. which we reprinted. This prompted me to go back in the National Right to Life News archives. I found two articles that are particularly instructive. Raj Rojas’s analysis is the first. Laura Echevarria’s wonderful critique of media coverage of the march is second. Laura was then NRL’s Director of Media Relations. Both articles appeared in the May 2004 issue of NRL News.
News media coverage of the April 25 “March for Women’s Lives” in Washington, D.C., it could be argued, was by and large pretty fair. The conspicuous exception is the hometown Washington Post. Many news reports covered both sides of the issue, pointing out that many of the marchers were there for a variety of reasons, not just abortion.
From another perspective, however, coverage left much to be desired.
For example, there was little attention paid to an important press conference held just blocks from where the pro-abortion marchers would assemble two days later. NRLC brought together a powerful assemblage of pro-life and pro-family organizations that used their own eloquence and the startlingly pro-life results from a new poll to illustrate that the marchers who had come to the nation’s capitol were very much out of step with the American people.
The poll found majorities among women, men and youth who support the pro-life viewpoint. As Americans learn more and more truth about abortion, it’s only a matter of time they reject it.
Evidently reporters were too busy writing stories with headlines such as, “For Some Believers, A Cause Across Generations.” There were any number of stories that portrayed the gathering as a kind of intra-generational show of solidarity, omitting the fairly obvious point that had the oldest woman decided to abort, there be no three generations to gather!
But besides the paltry coverage given to the pro-life press conference, one of the more seriously unfair components of the coverage was the use of an overhead aerial shot of marchers walking down Constitution Avenue that ran in a number of papers. Let me explain why.
When the massive ’Rally for Life” was held in 1990, sponsored by NRLC, the crowd was absolutely enormous. It seemed as if every square foot of the National Mall was covered with pro-lifers. While there was no scientific method by which either that Rally for Life or April’s march was gauged, those who attended the Rally tell me it was at least as large as , and probably considerably larger than, the April 25 gathering.
But if you would read press accounts of the April 25 march, two things clearly stand out. First, the 1990 Rally was rarely mentioned. Second, both that gathering and the annual March for Life were portrayed as much smaller than the “March for Women’s Lives.”
The Rally for Life did not march down Constitution Avenue. It assembled on the Mall. But had a similar overhead aerial shot been taken – – and published – – of any of the March for Life crowds which do wend their way down Constitution Avenue, it would have been every bit as impressive.
While most of the coverage of the march and reaction to it was fairly represented in most papers, I was tempted (and still am) to write a letter to the editors of the Post. My question to them would be, did they have any ink left after the extensive coverage they gave the pro-abortion march?
One could argue that it is the Washington Post, and, therefore it would give more coverage to an event taking place in D.C. However, the Post’s multi-story coverage was not confined to either the “A” section or the “Metro” section. It could be found in nearly all of its sections, including the Style section, something that never occurs in the Post’s spare coverage of the March for Life.
Moreover, there were stories leading up to the march and for days afterwards. By anyone’s standards, this qualifies as saturation coverage.
This story-after-story-after-story approach is very unusual. Because demonstrations and rallies happen so frequently in D.C., the Post seems to have developed a rather blasé attitude. But not with this one; the Post had plenty of energy and focus and reporters.
Virtually all papers around the country cleaned up the language and the attire and the placards that were on display. So did the Post, except for one article. While the reporter, Hank Stuever, didn’t spell out any obscenities, he gave enough information and context to leave nothing to the imagination.
Referring to something we won’t spell out in a family newspaper, Stuever wrote, “It was aggressive and even occasionally, almost delightfully, profane.” Did he say, “Almost delightfully profane”?
Yes, he did. Those who came to the capital that day were confronted with a variety of pro-abortion, anti-Bush slogans from the familiar and mundane to the profoundly obscene. This was not a “family event,” as many accounts would have the reader believe.
The saddest thing about the coverage was the number of pictures depicting families with small children who were wearing pro-abortion stickers and slogans. Some children were even brought up on the dais with parents who were speakers.
It was as if they were trophy children. To me, the pro-abortion march seemed to say to these children, “look how lucky you were that your mom wanted you.” The alternative would have placed these children in the same category as the over 44 million [now over 56 million] who have died since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
Yes, they were very lucky indeed.