Is the March for Life Worth Doing Virtually?

March for Life
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After 46 years of tens of thousands marching in Washington, D. C. to peacefully protest the national legalization of child murder, the March for Life has been canceled and converted into a virtual affair for 2021. Of course, there is nothing surprising in this, but is there something disappointing? 

For some, the March for Life may as well be a virtual event since it has been virtually ineffective in overturning Roe v. Wade. For others, the March for Life is simply worth doing—and therefore, to borrow Mr. Chesterton’s quip, it is “worth doing badly,” or virtually, as the case may be.

As the largest pro-life demonstration in the country, the March for Life inevitably “went virtual” this year, given the stringent health mandates surrounding COVID-19 and the aggressive militarization of Washington, D. C. in the wake of the Capitol “insurrection” and the White House installation. In many ways, this year was decidedly not the year to storm D. C. with our prayerful presence. The security and law enforcement hurdles and social distancing requirements that organizers and protesters would have had to face would probably have been insurmountable.

There is, moreover, prudence as well as practicality in moving the protest of thousands to an online venue this year. Had the attempt been made to proceed as usual, the mainstream media would have certainly covered the event for the first time in 46 years just to lambast it and its attenders as hypocritical, science-denying, rabble-rousers that would actually cause deaths through a “super-spreader,” falsely claiming to be concerned with life. It probably would’ve gotten ugly one way or another—and certainly would’ve run the risk of morphing into a March for Trump, which would have been tense and more than a little out of place.

Still, it’s disappointing.

But prudence and pragmatics aside, there are those within our ranks who see this virtual concession as a kind of retreat that has been a long time coming, or even long overdue. The annual gathering, for some, has become just as ritualistic and perfunctory as the spineless inaction and shameless indifference in the Congressional swamp. The March for Life has become a frustrating act of futility and, at best, just a social event to keep our pro-life spirits up by seeing that the movement is not insubstantial. In short, if the protest is not actually effecting change, perhaps it may be time to try new tactics.

But there are those who see that if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly. The March may not have caused any legislative landslides after 46 years, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile. A thing worth doing is always worth doing, no matter how “effective” it may or may not be. The March for Life, even as a symbol, is a very worthy thing, and it should be done. In one sense, it’s the least many of us can do. The shift to a virtual version, though (hopefully) temporary, is unfortunate; it dilutes the power of the gesture and the experience—but still, if that’s the best we can do this year, however weak an act it may be, it should be done. 

Whether thousands muster on the National Mall physically, or do so in spirit, this is the year when demonstration and prayer are most called for. The Biden presidency is, on its face, the most pro-abortion administration this nation has ever seen. The newly sworn-ins are so pro-abortion, one might even go so far as to say that they are anti-life, as terrible as that sounds. But facts are facts, or to use the Leftist lingo so often foisted against us, “science is real.” There is no social justice in abortion. 

Kamala Harris supports late-term abortion, and sports a 0% rating from the National Right to Life Committee—and a whopping 100% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America. Both Biden and Harris back the application of taxpayer dollars to fund abortions, and the mandate that all healthcare plans, despite the religious convictions of their clients, include access to abortifacient drugs. (Sorry, Little Sisters of the Poor, prepare to be told again that you must pay for birth control.)

But an immediate and growing concern is his new Administration’s investigation into the federal codifying of Roe, which would ultimately make it more difficult for individual states to pass laws restricting abortion “rights” and send more state-level abortion debates into the courts. If there’s anything in Biden and Harris’s obvious dodginess about Supreme Court packing, the abortion debate may turn out pretty one-sided—and it wouldn’t be the right side. God forbid.

It is on the state level that the battle is escalating, and here that ground is being won to protect life. The federal government can stick its finger in the dyke to hold the pro-life surge at bay, but the movement is mounting—many states are imposing more and more abortion restrictions. More and more young people are mobilizing and speaking out, and after taking part in a demonstration of thousands once a year in Washington, D. C., they return home encouraged that they are not alone. 

These young people who flock to the March every year will grow up to vote, raise families, own property in neighborhoods, gain positions in society, and run for political offices. The March for Life is a call to action for this new generation, as the national opinion shifts in favor of protecting the unborn from untimely, spine-snipping deaths. It doesn’t matter if, in the meantime, our efforts to defend innocent children are limited, so long as we defend innocent children in whatever way and by whatever means available.

The voiceless must not be forgotten just because we have all been thrust in a faceless society. At the same time, Catholics have to be careful not to succumb to enemy tactics in their fight for the holy. The online forum is not always one conducive to serious engagement. In fact, the speciousness of the medium detracts from its impact and meaningfulness. And it has become an indispensable facet in keeping people apart—a sine qua non of social distancing.

The pro-life movement must do all it can to keep it real, and hold together without resorting to the flimsy constructs of a dehumanizing society. We must be ready to put boots on the ground, anticipating online de-platforming. We must stay awake—while resisting becoming woke—and march for the right reasons, even if the odds are unreasonable. There was nothing reasonable in a virgin’s acceptance of becoming the Mother of God. But her faith prevailed, and so will ours. 

The March for Life is worth doing, and so it’s worth doing online.

[Photo Credit: Peter Zelasko/CNA]

By

Sean Fitzpatrick is a senior contributor to Crisis and serves on the faculty of Gregory the Great Academy, a Catholic boarding school for boys in Pennsylvania.

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