A Eulogy for the March for Life

A Eulogy for the March for Life January 24, 2020

I have tried so hard to ignore coverage of this year’s March for Life.

Last year was bad enough. That was the year I was informed that demanding that people claiming to have the moral high ground uphold themselves with fortitude and courtesy when heckled is inimical to the pro-life cause. Every kind of bad behavior is excusable as long as the bunglers who committed it were trying to be pro-life, I was informed. I didn’t want to talk about the March anymore.

But today, scrolling through social media for something else to talk about, I saw people I once respected praising the president for addressing the March for Life in person, as if he was taking some kind of a risk for doing so. They keep saying this was an important gesture, a meaningful one, one that “took courage.”

I was taken aback in spite of myself.

How could they say that a Republican showing up on the National Mall and giving a speech at the March for Life “took courage?”

Why does it “take courage” for a Republican president to address the March for Life in the first place? This is supposed to be part of their platform. Why does it take courage for Trump, in particular, to stand up in front of a group of people in MAGA hats, parrot a speech that someone else wrote, and receive their applause? The president likes to do that. Addressing rallies of people who agree with him is the only part of the job that he enjoys. It excites him and makes him feel like a king. Wanting to feel like a king is why he ran for president in the first place. This is a joy for Trump. He likes it when people applaud him.

Why does it take courage to do something you like, which you know will earn you high praise?

Aren’t there some other courageous things that he could do?

Overall, abortion rates have dropped every year from 2011 to 2017, all around the country, for which we should be grateful. But laws restricting abortion don’t seem to be the main driver of that. It seems to be a general reduction in the pregnancy rate. Abortion rates actually rose in some of the states that passed heavy restrictions. And those restrictions were passed at the state level anyway. President Trump didn’t do any of this.

I haven’t yet found information about the abortion rates in the past two years in the country overall. However, Planned Parenthood released a report saying that the 2018-2019 business year was the busiest year of their existence– the most abortions provided and the most government funds garnered, since they’ve been keeping records. President Trump didn’t stop that.

And Rand Paul, of all people, has spilled the beans that the GOP had it within their grasp to de-fund Planned Parenthood for the whole country, but declined to try, because the law might pass. I hope no one is going to accuse him of being a liberal trying to make the party look like liars.

Meanwhile, the Republican party seems determined to do everything they can, in practice, to hurt vulnerable children: the disastrous immigration crackdown, cuts to food stamps, poisoning the water. We’re told we have to put up with these eccentricities because abortion kills the most people. But they’ve done nothing to help those people either.

Still, we’re supposed to forget all of that and laud the GOP as saviors of babies and President Trump as the most pro-life president in history, because he made a speech at the March for Life.

I’ve kept asking, for nearly four years now, whether we should be interested in scoring ideological victories or saving actual human lives, and again again I’ve had my answer. Most people would rather score points. They would rather fawn over someone who says the right thing than actually help people. This is a flaw that human beings share all across the political spectrum, but it’s especially shocking when the people who commit it say they’re doing it because they are pro-life.

As for me, I would like to safeguard and protect as many lives as I can, from conception until natural death, without swallowing anybody’s party line. For this I’m called fake pro-life and not really Catholic enough, and worse things.

I used to go to the March for Life, when I was a teenager and a young adult. It made me feel that I had “Done Something,” that I had taken a stand for helpless lives in danger. After awhile, my health got too bad to get on a bus overnight, and I stayed home and interceded for the marchers. But after awhile I asked myself, what was I really doing out there? Was I helping anyone? Exactly how many lives, unborn or otherwise were saved by my standing on the National Mall with a sign shouting slogans at people who agree with me? Not that there’s no place for public protest, but a public protest at the exact same scheduled time every single year doesn’t seem to be accomplishing much. Wouldn’t our efforts be better spent doing something else?

The president used the podium today to stump for his second term, claiming “the unborn have never had a stronger defender in the White House” and claim that the Democrats are after him because he’s pro-life.

A politician desperate to keep his job, in an election year, showing off in front of a crowd of people who love him and will cheer for him no matter what, is not performing an act of courage. He’s advertising for himself.

I was once told that the reason we should still crowd the National Mall and shout at one another was for the sake of any pregnant women watching. “Imagine if it changes even one heart.” But that goes both ways, you know. Imagine all the people watching a self-serving fool pander to a fan base that fawns over him. What conclusion will they form, and can you blame them?

The March for Life may or may not have once stood for a consistent life ethic. I am the wrong person to ask if it did. But it’s clear that right now, it’s a campaign rally for a political party and nothing more. And it doesn’t take courage to attend your own campaign rally.

I’m told President Trump walked offstage to a rousing chorus of The Rolling Stones’  “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” and I suppose that’s as good a dirge as any for the March for Life.

And I went down to the demonstration
To get my fair share of abuse
Singing, “We’re gonna vent our frustration
If we don’t we’re gonna blow a fifty-amp fuse.

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes, well, you just might find
You get what you need.
What some of us need is praise, and to be called courageous for seeking it.
The rest of us ought to go on trying to help safeguard human life.
(image via Pixabay)
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