Pro-Life Marchers Set Sights on the White House
Recent electoral failures have this year’s March for Life abuzz about what a new president could do for the cause.
“The March for Life is tomorrow in Washington, D.C. What’s your message to those attending?” one EWTN reporter asked President Joe Biden outside the White House on Thursday. “March,” the president replied.
What Biden meant by this, one can only speculate. Nevertheless, the pro-abortion president’s command to quite literally “march” for life became the rallying cry of the thousands that gathered in Washington, D.C. on Friday as they made their way from the Washington Monument to the United States Supreme Court.
The March for Life is always a peculiar affair. While at other marches, a single tone rises above the rest—at the Womens’ March, for example, anger and resentment—the March for Life is more discordant. This is due, I think, to the wide appeal of the cause of life, which has been central to the conservative movement since Roe came down 51 years ago. While the Sisters of Life soberly pray the Rosary, Protestant highschool students chant “We are pro-life!” while holding signs that depict a cartoon panda (who knows why) and read “Save the baby humans.” Even some radical leftists, who rightly see abortion as an instrument of unfettered capitalism, can be spotted amongst the March’s ranks.
Friday’s march appeared slightly smaller than last years. This was no surprise. On a practical level, the weather this year was much worse than the year prior. Perhaps more significantly, 2023 was the first march since the Supreme Court handed down the Dobbs decision. Despite setbacks in Michigan, Kansas, and Kentucky, the momentum felt as if it was on the side of life. With another setback in 2023 in Ohio, however, this year's march was less celebratory. From my conversations at the march on Friday, this year’s attendees increasingly see the pro-life movement needs a new strategy—a more radical strategy.
Harry Scherer of Americans United for Life, a TAC contributing editor, said those at this year’s march are the “true believers.” The thousands braving the elements, Scherer said, give “a testament to the large percentage of Americans who are ready to see the human right to life protected in law, specifically through our federal Constitution and through state constitutions across the country.”
“The recent setbacks to the pro-life cause don’t seem to have turned anyone away,” Gabriel Guidarini, the affiliates director for College Republicans of America, told TAC. “Rather,they have increased the weight of the issue for people so to speak.”
Scherer also sees a silver lining to the pro-life movement’s setbacks on the state level. “We saw from Ohio that millions of dollars were funneled into the state, to contrive an anti-life, majority in the state. Through that funding, we can see that that can be done really anywhere across the country if enough money is put toward it. So the pro-life majorities and states should be ready to put forward amendments that confirm the right to life in their state constitutions and to do whatever they can to make sure that the anti-life ballot referenda don't go forward.”
“These things shouldn’t even be up for vote. I think it's totally ridiculous that 51 percent of the population is deciding whether or not an unborn baby gets delivered,” Shri Thakur, a sophomore at Notre Dame, told The American Conservative. “That, to me—it’s totally inappropriate. But if we’re going to maintain this democratic dialectic, then I do think the pro-life movement has to sort of change its messaging. I think Donald Trump has done a good job with that where he's basically de emphasizing the issue. But, when he gets back into power, as a president who won’t be restrained by the prospect of re-election, I think he’s going to deliver for the pro-life movement even more than he did in his first term.”
“There’s been a very pro-federal power shift among people after the Dobbs decision and the failure of pro-life state-level measures in the time that has followed,” Guidarini said, echoing Thakur’s comments. Guidarini added that the setbacks “have also helped clarify that the pro-life movement doesn’t have a majority of Americans willing to agree with it.”
While some Republican presidential candidates, like former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, have attempted to pass the buck on the abortion issue to Congress, the pro-life political strategy is turning away from the purely democratic elements of the American political system.
“There’s a lot of ways that a Republican presidency could go about restricting abortion that doesn't even involve the consent of Congress,” Thakur told TAC. “For example, there’s the Comstock Act, which is a law passed in the 19th century, which basically prohibits abortion materials from being mailed whatsoever. It’s not being enforced by the Biden Department of Justice—even Republican administrations haven't enforced it. But if we get into power, I think that’s definitely something we can look at.”
“There are a lot of avenues we can take to roll back abortion that doesn't even involve the Congress,” said Thakur.
What is needed, it seems, is an executive with the will to tell the American people they can no longer kill their unborn children without consequence.
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“Part of me wants to think Biden’s statement was just him mentally not being in the moment like he tends to be,” Guidarini told TAC regarding Biden’s previous remarks.
“But another part of me thinks his simple ‘march’ response was more of a confident dismissal of the pro-life cause,” Guidarini continued. “The movement’s actions are ultimately futile and his side is in control.”
Guidarini has a point. If the pro-life movement can’t beat Biden, how can it win?