Earlier today, the men and women who support dismantling abortion rights in the US took their cause to Washington, D.C. for their annual "March for Life," to demonstrate the strength of their movement. Bolstered by a Republican-controlled government that just reinstated the global gag rule, voted to make the Hyde Amendment permanent, and introduced a federal "heartbeat bill" that would completely ban abortion after six weeks, anti-abortion zealots have been feeling quite optimistic that they will prevail.
Indeed, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and Vice President Mike Pence both gave speeches at the rally before the march. During his time on stage, Pence ominously affirmed that, under President Trump, the new administration will be dedicated to an anti-abortion doctrine. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan even made a short video in honor of march, celebrating "a new dawn for the unborn."
When the president of March for Life, Jeanne Mancini, addressed the crowd, she asked everyone to take their iPhones and document the size of the rally, insisting that the media will try to deny its scope. (She also noted that if Steve Jobs' mother had chosen to have an abortion, we wouldn't have iPhones.) Mancini went on to claim—falsely—that the majority of Americans want to block access to abortion.
Expectedly, the "March for Life" was a bleak display of the anti-abortion movement's outsized political influence. The pictures that Mancini asked the crowd to take will show a gathering of America's fringe that has formed a fitting alliance with a man who lost the popular vote. Trump claimed that the march would "have 300, 400, 500, 600,000" people standing against a woman's right to make her own decisions about her body, but the New York Times reported that "only 92 [bus] permits had been issued for the March for Life" by the estimates of the city's Department of Transportation, which handle the permits.
Americans who support taking away women's freedom to choose are not the majority.
In comparison, "some 1,800 permits were issued for the women's march"—which saw a turnout of 500,000 people in Washington, DC—"and 450 for Mr. Trump's inauguration, the transportation department said," according to the publication. Politico reports that metro ridership today, as of 11AM, was slightly below average for a regular weekday. Photos of Metro Center, taken one hour before the march, showed no signs of human life, born or "unborn."
To underscore the reality that was distorted on the ground, UltraViolet, a national women's organization, commissioned a plane to fly a banner near the march. "ABORTION ACCESS MORE POPULAR THAN DONALD TRUMP," it read. The group also took out an ad in a free local paper to remind the marchers that 70 percent of Americans support abortion access.
"We know that Donald Trump cares about his approval ratings and doesn't care about facts. So here is a fact he, and those who will be marching today, will especially hate—abortion access is more popular than Donald Trump," said Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of UltraViolet, in a statement. "To drive this point home, we're launching this campaign and timing the launch to today's march. Like the small number of Americans who support Trump, Americans who support taking away women's freedom to choose are not the majority."
The presence of some of the highest ranking officials a march indicates the tyranny of the Christian right to come. Women—and LGBTQ people and Muslim Americans—will be under increased threat. Only a week into Donald Trump's presidency, we already are. At one point during the rally, a right-wing radio host proclaimed that Roe v. Wade was a "fake law," akin to "fake news."
Sen. Joni Ernst also announced at the rally that she will introduce a bill to repeal the federal standard that prohibits selectively targeting and withholding Title X federal family planning money from medical providers. This would open the door to defund Planned Parenthood, which would mean that millions of women would be without affordable and accessible reproductive services. The crowd cheered in response.