No pro-lifers? Journalists find that Women's March on Washington doesn't want them

When I first moved to Washington, D.C. in 1995, one of my first assignments was to cover the annual March For Life that commemorates the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

It was around that time that the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians asked to be a part of the march, only to have its chief organizer tell them they weren’t welcome.

Everyone I knew disagreed with this organizer –- who has since died -– because most people felt abortion was so evil, there needed to be a much larger coalition opposed to it other than the usual suspects. The PLAGL folks marched anyway and they were welcomed, as far as I know. They have been marching for years, now.

Now the shoe is on the other foot, culturally speaking.

The Women’s March on Washington, slated for this Saturday, was supposed to be about women, right? It turns out access to abortion is one of the basic principles in this march, which, The Atlantic reported Monday, puts one group of women in a bind.

Pro-life women are headed to D.C. Yes, they’ll turn out for the annual March for Life, which is coming up on January 27. But one week earlier, as many as a few hundred pro-lifers are planning to attend the Women’s March on Washington, which has been billed as feminist counterprogramming to the inauguration.
With organizations like Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America co-sponsoring the event, pro-life marchers have found themselves in a somewhat awkward position. What’s their place at an event that claims to speak for all women, but has aligned itself with pro-choice groups? With roughly a week to go before the march, organizers also released a set of “unity principles,” and one of them is “open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people.”

Nevertheless, the magazine reported, organizers had originally granted a pro-life group partner status in the rally. But once that news got leaked out, the organizers did an about face.

Many pro-life women felt just as outraged as pro-choice women about Donald Trump’s conduct and comments, including the revelation that he once bragged about groping women without their permission. For their part, the organizers say pro-lifers will be welcome to march on January 21st. A pro-life group based in Texas, New Wave Feminists, was granted partnership status on Friday. “Intersectional feminism is the future of feminism and of this movement,” said Bob Bland, one of the event’s co-chairs. “We must not just talk about feminism as one issue, like access to reproductive care.”
(On Monday afternoon, after the publication of this article, the Women’s March organizers removed the New Wave Feminists from their website and list of partners. “The Women’s March’s platform is pro-choice and that has been our stance from day one,” the organizers said in a statement. “The anti-choice organization in question is not a partner of the Women's March on Washington. We apologize for this error.”)

I must applaud the staff writer who did this story in that she had her ear to the ground enough to catch what was going on and to scoop other media. Rarely do reporters care what's happening among women and men in the anti-abortion movement, much less try to cover what they do, so this was a nice change.

Religion is not a part of this story except in an indirect way, yet through a link that will be familiar to any GetReligion reader or any consumer of mainstream news coverage of life issues.

I’m guessing many of these pro-life feminists carry some faith with them, in terms of their beliefs and motivations for activism. The article ends with a cross section of pro-life women interviewed who have varying reasons for wanting to be in the march and who aren’t going to let any organizer stop them.

The idea of the New Wave Feminists being de-partnered intrigued The Washington Post into doing its own story which evolved into a discussion on the essence of feminism. While one Georgetown University professor argued that access to abortion was foundational to feminism (which is ironic in that Georgetown –- at least in name -– is a Catholic university), others said feminism concerns pre-born women as well.

The Post added one interesting tidbit: The women’s march is being seen as a “galvanizing event for Hillary Clinton supporters;” that is, a farewell wave to the Clinton machine. 

Reason.org laid out a timeline of the behind-the-scenes machinations among the organizers distancing themselves from the pro-lifers after they got attacked on Twitter for including the New Wave folks. Reason had its own beef with the march not standing up for sex workers. In other words: 

That's right: anything less than complete agreement about abortion and the group doesn't even want you participating in the rally. Never mind if you're with the group on any or all of its myriad other principles -- identify as pro-choice (but against sex-worker rights) or the cool girls don't want to sit with you.

In short, I found the coverage to be fair this time around and even HuffingtonPost.com, which always takes a swipe at anything conservative, pointed readers toward New Wave's Facebook page, which is a hoot. Take note of the still from the movie "Mean Girls" with the words "You can't march with us!!" superimposed. 

Around the country, I found this amusing story in the San Francisco Chronicle about the annual right-to-life march occurring downtown this Saturday right before a “sister” demonstration for the march on Washington. So far, both groups are trying not to step on each others’ toes.

Given the heated emotions of the week leading up to Trump’s Friday inauguration and its many demonstrations, having the Women’s March and its liberal groups including NARAL Pro-Choice California in direct proximity to the conservative Walk for Life is, well, unfortunate, organizers say. But in a rare hands-across-the-aisle moment, they’ve been talking to each other to keep things cool.
“We’ve been doing our march every year around now for 13 years, and this year was an odd coincidence,” said Eva Muntean of San Francisco, a Walk for Life organizer. “They put themselves on top of us, and we’re not happy about it, but what can we do?

Like the PLAGL folks ended up doing in the mid-1990s, the New Wavers and some other pro-lifers are going to be in the women's march anyway. Maybe Feminists for Life, with images of the great early feminists who opposed abortion (and check out the end of this Saturday Night Live skit about Susan B. Anthony)? How about Democrats for Life?

When there's an over-arching cause, all hands need to be on deck.

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