The March for Life and the risks and rewards of institutionalization

Many abortion opponents showed up for the annual March for Life in Washington, DC this past week, commemorating (mourning) the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established abortion rights across the United States.

I don’t know how many; the Park Service stopped providing crowd estimates years ago and organizers always inflate their claims (>500,000?) [on the demonstration numbers game, see], but certainly there were at least tens of thousands–and a somewhat smaller number of abortion rights demonstrators.  Because it was cold and snowy, and because it was the 41st March for Life (not the 40th), everyone seems to agree that last year’s march was even bigger.  The March is there every year, with crowds that vary according to weather, organizing efforts, and the political salience of abortion.

The March for Life was most extensively covered by supporters this year (e.g., Warren Mass in The New American; access to the Internet allows well-organized groups like the March to post their own accounts as well, highlighting the supportive tweet from Pope Francis)  Mainstream media coverage seemed to range from standard (local media did best: The Washington Post offered an article and pictures, as did Politico) to somewhat less (The New York Times offered only a picture with a caption).

Why?  Maybe it was the weather? Even The Christian Post used pictures from 2013, but there are other issues, some discussed in The Times‘ Public Editor’s (Margaret Sullivan) column.  The March for Life is a big, well-established group with a substantial professional staff.  It organizes and raises money all year for this event, and succeeds at generating some kind of substantial turnout each year.  This year’s theme, adoption, didn’t represent a new set of arguments or policy demands, just a continuation of a decades-long campaign.  It lacks the novelty or uncertainty of the kind of news that attracts extensive coverage.  Mainstream media were more comfortable, in more ways than one, covering the March in the context of the almost completely partisanized debate about abortion rights.  This means quoting elected officials and speculating on electoral implications.

The irony is that because the March has institutionalized so effectively, reliably turning out large crowds each year, those crowds and those efforts get less attention.

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About David S. Meyer

Author and professor of Sociology and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine
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4 Responses to The March for Life and the risks and rewards of institutionalization

  1. It is no wonder that the American youth of today are not interested in politics…

    Here at the ‘End of the Modern Era,’ American politics and more importantly, Western politics is void of any real substantive issues.

    Nothing reinforces this point more than the endless debate about abortion rights; the need to reference everything through the prism of identity politics; or the development of a culture of pleonexia, founded upon resentment and envy of those with more, by focusing on an issue like income inequality. Even though the modern era has left us, the elite of every Western country continue to pursue a politics formed by political wedge issues of days gone by.

    More importantly, these contrived issues are a reminder to the youth of today that the issues that are important to them, are not wanted or desired in today’s political discourse.

    What is needed is new way of doing politics; a politics free of the modern paradoxes and contradictions; a politics that is forward looking, and void of all ideology.

    What is needed is a new era of Enlightenment.

    I just wonder what this New Enlightenment would look like.

    J.R. Werbics is a Canadian writer and philosopher.

    • The picture I posted–and others–show at least some young Americans interested enough to turn out in the cold to demonstrate against legal abortion. I think maintaining access to legal abortion (and birth control) is also an important issue to many many young people. It strikes me as an important issue. I am among those who can’t imagine “a politics free of modern paradoxes and contradictions…void of all ideology.:

      • “I am among those who can’t imagine “a politics free of modern paradoxes and contradictions…void of all ideology.:”

        It would seem that another modern political thesis has also become institutionalized,…

        The status quo.

  2. Pingback: March for Life 2017, with presidential support | Politics Outdoors

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