A Discussion of Empathy and Agenda: The 2017 March for Life

Image by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License / CC BY 2.0

The March for Life organization gathered for their 44th annual march last Friday in Washington, D.C. The organization hosted the recently sworn in U.S. Vice President, Mike Pence, as the featured speaker, making him the highest ranking U.S. government official in history to speak at the march.

The Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 decision, Roe v Wade, declared banning abortion unconstitutional and thus became the case the March for Life organization desperately petitions to overturn.

Given his history of an anti-abortion crusade, Pence’s cameo this past Friday was not at all surprising. However, Pence’s words of gratitude directed towards President Donald Trump for demonstrating a “strong commitment to the sanctity of life” are outright mock-worthy given Trump’s flimsy stance on abortion in the past.

At the March, Pence, with voluminous support, took to the stage with the phrase “life is winning.” This slogan suitably echoes the underlying agenda of the March for Life organization. More of a prideful boast than a political opinion, it highlights the heroism complex that the founders of the March for Life organization satisfy. This mentality is omnipresent in their rhetoric. It illuminates the March for Life organization’s strong efforts to thrust their pretense of “working to protect the preborn” into the limelight.

The March for Life organization essentially toots their own horn, flaunting their work as merely the goodwill of a wholesome guardian. This portrays the overarching false sense of empathy maintained by the March participants and Republicans, Pence and Trump. All demonstrated their allegiance to the March for Life organization at last week’s March. The juxtaposition between the concern Pence and Trump parade for the protection of the preborn, and their overwhelming lack of concern for the protection and safety of already living minorities, highlights the ironic and imbalanced placement of empathy within the mindset of pro-life Republicans.

As for the lay supporters of the March for Life organization, where do you shovel away your empathy when you deny an individual the right to choose?

While some pro-life supporters utterly avoid this question, self-proclaimed pro-life feminists believe their advocacy of expressing “women deserve better,” is sufficiently  empathetic. Pro-life feminists strive to essentially “nip” abortion in the bud by improving the resources and availability of reproductive care; however, their methods are far from being perfectly remedial and demonstrate a cisnormative model of care.

The oversimplified view, deeming unwanted pregnancy as an easily preventative condition, fails to examine the realities surrounding abortion cases, including those that result from sexual violence. This oversimplification models an equally simplistic feminism, white feminism, which regularly disregards the importance of social factors such as race, sexual orientation, etc. as intersectional forces which are essential to understanding many realities – including those which may influence an individual’s decision to have abortion.

Furthermore, pro-life “feminists’ ” blunt allegiance to Susan B. Anthony, a racist leader of the women’s suffrage movement, is yet another reason (if not the most blatant) to be extremely critical of this community’s feminist facade.  

The platform of pro-life feminists created much of the tension two weeks ago at the Women’s March. Within all resistance there are inevitably nuances which we would do well to unpack. Rather than form vague, generalized, and often spurious solidarities, in the face of the new administration, it is essential that we shy away from deceptive progressivism and be forthright about our objectives. From this, there is most definitely tension to come, yet we cannot expect improvement without this paramount re-evaluation.  

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