On Monday, January 23rd, the annual March for Life took place on the National Mall in Washington D.C. to mark the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. C-SPAN posted a video of the March for Life rally, which can be viewed here. The March for Life rally featured speeches by political leaders and representatives from anti-abortion organizations such as Priests for Life, the National Black Pro-Life Coalition, and Silent No More. For your edification, I've featured some of the most striking speech quotes below.
Following a speech by Speaker of the House John Boehner, Rep. Chris Smith (R-New Jersey), co-chair of the House Pro-Life Caucus, took to the podium with his wife. Referring to the anti-abortion movement as the "greatest human rights movement on earth," Rep. Smith claimed that the House overwhelmingly approved H.R. 3 (the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act) and the defunding of Planned Parenthood. Rep. Smith delivered a scathing polemic against President Obama, whom he called the "abortion industry's enabler-in-chief." At the 52:45 mark, he insisted that abortion was incompatible with American values.
"Mr. President, the violent destruction of children in the womb, killing babies, is not an American value. Mr. President, stop violating conscience rights. Stop violating religious freedom. That is not an American value. Abortion is not, never will be an American value. And stop exporting abortion to the four corners of the Earth."At the 53:19 mark, Rep. Smith demonized President Obama for his alleged "abortion extremism," which he claimed will be even more strident in President Obama's second term.
"The past three years, my friends, of abortion extremism by President Obama is a mere foretaste, a mere foreshadowing of what will be if he is reelected. Mr. Obama's abortion extremism will significantly worsen in a second term. Given four more years, Obama will pack the courts and will--especially the U.S. Supreme Court, with litmus-tested pro-abortion judges. Unfettered by any concern of a future election, Mr. Obama will aggressively use the coercive power of the state to compel abortion conformity."Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin, 5th District), criticized the Obama Administration's recent decision to require all employers to provide contraception coverage in employee health insurance (see here). At the 1:03:14 mark, he had this to say.
"One of the principles upon which our country was founded is freedom. Last Friday the Obama administration took away a freedom by going against conscience protection, and what this means is that people who are health care professionals or people who work in religious-sponsored hospitals will have a choice. The choice is their faith or their job. That's not freedom. That has to be reversed."Similarly, Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio, 2nd District) framed the contraception coverage mandate as an attack on religious freedom. The fact that anti-abortion voices not only resented a government mandate to provide contraception coverage, but aired this resentment at an anti-abortion event, revealed much about their agenda. The impact this would have on women's freedom to have affordable contraception and control their reproductive lives was not considered. At the 1:14:04 mark, Rep. Schmidt echoed Rep. Sensenbrenner's rhetoric.
"I'm here to challenge you to help me make sure that we are and continue to be the greatest nation in the world, a nation under God and God's plan for us ... This administration attacked one of the basic cores of what makes America great. Not only has our right to life been under continuous attack for the last 39 years, but now our right to be the kind of person we want to be, the right to liberty ... By removing the conscience clause, this administration is now forcing us to choose between our right to be the kind of person we want to be, to have religious expression, and a job."The March for Life rally illustrated the threads connecting anti-abortion and anti-euthanasia activists. Before introducing Bobby Schindler (brother of the late Terri Schiavo) Brother Paul O'Donnell argued that abortion was a slippery slope toward euthanasia. At the 1:46:56 mark, he told the audience that, "we need to remember that euthanasia follows abortion, just as night will follow this day."
Pastor Luke Robinson of the Quinn Chapel AME Church in Frederick, MD delivered the final rally speech. At the 1:51:10 mark, he described Roe v. Wade in nightmarish language.
"We are here because injustice is here. Thirty-nine years ago, our Supreme Court decided to legally kill children in America. Thirty-nine years ago, America bought into the lie that it could not determine when human life began ... These supreme ones were not wise enough to determine the beginning of human life, and thus plunged this nation into a bloody sea of human death with the murder of over 52 million innocent children, pre-born children! This mess must stop!"Old abortion myths die hard, such as the myth that abortion increases women's risk of breast cancer. At the 1:51:58 mark, Pastor Robinson repeated this claim, failing to consider medical research to the contrary. In 2003, the National Cancer Institute convened a gathering of over 100 global experts on pregnancy and breast cancer risk, which concluded that abortion does not increase a woman's risk of breast cancer (see here). He also depicted abortion as a horrific site of violence against women, but did not provide examples.
"Studies have shown that abortion has tremendously increased breast cancer among women since the fatal decision handed down in Roe v. Wade. Additionally, women have been sterilized, raped, found dead on the abortion table. This mess must change!"At the 1:56:39 mark, Pastor Robinson framed abortion as a blow to the African-American community, raging against African-American leaders who refused to condemn abortion.
"Last year it was reported that the African-American community of New York was being devastated by abortion. The report was that 60% of all the impregnations of New York City in the African-American community ended in the death of the children. That meant that out of every 100 impregnations, 60 children died and 40 lived ... It is a tragedy in America. It is a tragedy in the African American community. It's genocidal. It is the destruction of a people. Where is the voice of President Obama? Where is the voice of Jesse Jackson? Where is the voice of Al Sharpton? Where is the voice of the Black Congressional Caucus? Where is the voice of the great Democratic party? ... Could it be, could it possibly be that the billion dollar abortion business has bought them out?"Echoing the anti-Obama rhetoric of other speakers, Robinson urged listeners to take America back on election day from "the princes of darkness and the culture of death." He concluded his speech with glorification of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, begging God to open others' eyes.
After a musical performance of "God Bless America," the crowd left the National Mall to march to the Supreme Court, a sea of thousands peppered with umbrellas, banners, and signs.
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In conclusion, the conservative Christian flavor of several 2012 March for Life's speeches was noticeable, and the anti-abortion rhetoric was familiar enough. Speakers framed reproductive rights as an affront to religious freedom, painted abortion as a racial injustice, and spoke of contraception coverage, abortion, and euthanasia in the same disapproving breath. Equally glaring was the topics that were absent from the discussion: preventing unwanted pregnancy and exploring why women seek abortions. In their haste to demonize Planned Parenthood and contraception safeguards, speakers failed to reflect on the public health crisis that would result if either disappeared. In short, speakers at the 2012 March for Life vented their fury toward abortion without exploring its roots and complexities.