Editor’s note. I wrote this editorial for the May 10, 1990, issue of National Right to Life News. The entire edition was filled with coverage of the historic “Rally for Life” which took place on April 28 in our nation’s capital.
Pro-lifers didn’t then, and never will, receive credit for the size of the crowd that assembled. I was there with my family and I cannot begin to convey to you how many people were there on what turned out to be a very warm Spring day.
We conservatively estimated the crowd at 300,000. My own guess is that the numbers were far larger. It was a great day–and an entryway into pro-life activism for untold thousands.
NRLC President Carol Tobias has written her own reflections which appear elsewhere in Friday’s edition of National Right to Life News Today. Whatever you do, be sure to read Carol’s remembrances.
Of all the magnificent sights and sounds that filled the air April 28, for me nothing struck quite so close to home as the chant, “Tell the truth.” The immediate context were the remarks of John Cardinal O’Conner, commenting on the sea of faces that stretched for blocks, and numerous television cameras that were panning over the huge crowd. The Cardinal asked dryly, “I wonder what will happen to all that footage?”
Years of frustration immediately boiled to the surface. Spontaneously, many of the 300,000 + pro-life champions chanted, “Tell the truth.” Well, as if it comes as any surprise, the truth did not win out. At best, we were given credit for only 200,000. And, until it was impossible to maintain the façade, pro-abortion fanatic Ted Turner’s CNN said that 60,000 had gathered between the Ellipse, the grounds of the Washington monument and the Lincoln memorial. (That pro-abortion stalwart, National Public Radio, held on to the bitter end. At 5:00, it was still reporting the grossly distorted 60,000 figure.)
But these remarks are not about media bias. They are not about the 4 inches USA Today gave in its Monday coverage, or the three-eighth’s of an inch the Wall Street Journal so generously devoted to the Rally. Nor is it about the underhanded practice that prevailed in some newspapers of taking a picture in the direction of the Lincoln memorial, where only a relatively small number of people had assembled, rather than around the Washington Monument grounds, where people were packed-in like sardines.
If this editorial was about the media manipulation we’d also discuss the determined effort of the Washington Post to pretend that for all practical purposes the Rally had taken place in a phone booth. We’d also contrast the pages of stories the Post ran in advance of the pro-abort’s April 1989 gathering but in all fairness we would also need to give a tip of the hat to the New York Times whose coverage was remarkable. The newspaper actually treated us like any other huge gathering of concerned citizens, giving us both the benefit of the doubt (as opposed to impugning our sincerity every other sentence), and playing the story straight (as opposed to spending the bulk of the story telling the reading audience how supposedly bad off the Pro-Life movement is).
Rather the cry to “Tell the Truth” goes far beyond the issue of wildly inflating the size of pro-abortion rallies and largely blacking out news coverage of our enormous gathering. These three words are what everything we do and say is all about – truth-telling.
“Tell the truth,” for example, that abortion stops a beating heart, “Tell the truth” that abortion is child sacrifice and institutionalization of brutality. Tell the truth” that pro-lifers are not fanatics but regular folks, committed to protecting the powerless and assisting women experiencing crisis pregnancies. “Tell the truth” that the majority of the American people are in opposition to over 90% of the abortions performed every year. “Tell the truth” that the number of babies slaughtered to date is over 25,000,000. And “Tell the truth” that the issue is not about “Who Chooses?” but about what is chosen–the dismemberment of a fellow member of the human family.
Let me suggest that this awe-inspiring Rally represented the great and most telling example of truth-telling to date: that the dedication of those hundreds of thousand of champions remains unshakable. The fellowship and palpable surge of re-dedication brought to mind a phrase I had not thought of for years, one which vividly captured the kind of profound commitment on display that day in Washington: “Once caught, no escape.”
The cause of the babies had grabbed a hold of their hearts and there simply was (and is) no turning back for these pro-life champions. Many drove hours and hours, even days, to get to D.C., all at their own expense, to make a profoundly true statement: the Pro-Live Movement is robust, growing, and bursting with renewed energy.
Moreover, this crowd was Middle American incarnate. After all these years, nothing amazes me more about this whole debate than how blind the media are to this central fact. We–you and I–represent grass-roots American, not the hard-eyed pro-aborts who assembled in April 1989 [for their own rally in Washington, DC]. Their day in the sun and come and gone, which is why they must rely on million-dollar media campaigns and habitually resort to the Big Lie. …
If “abortion stops a beating heart” was the official Rally theme, the complementary theme was, “Now is the time to be counted.” Our people came by the hundreds of thousands from all over the country. And they did stand up and were counted. …You responded to the challenge to prove that pro-lifers, not Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem, and Whoopi Goldberg, represent the majority of Americans.