At March for Life a flip away from Trump and in the direction of “unity”
WASHINGTON (RNS) – A largely virtual version of a large annual anti-abortion meeting held in Washington, DC on Friday (January 29) that included recorded speeches from lawmakers, religious leaders and former soccer star Tim Tebow, which featured on Unity urged and appealed to President Biden to pass abortion law.
Jeanne Mancini, Director of March for Life, opened the event with the announcement of her topic: “Strong together, life connects.”
“With all the divisions, turmoil and fear in our country, we firmly believed that this year’s theme should require a time to come together,” she said.
What followed was an unusual iteration of the gathering, contrasted with the past few years, when references to former President Trump, his policies, and his rhetoric were the order of the day – some from Trump himself speaking at the 2020 event .
But after that month’s riot in the U.S. Capitol, perpetrated by supporters of the former president – including some anti-abortion activists – March for Life spokesmen tended to avoid his name altogether. Instead, many called for unity, emphasizing the diversity of the movement, and appealing directly to President Biden.
Mancini warned that Biden’s government was ready to make “divisive, abortion-promoting, deadly” policy choices, but urged the president to “consider unifying, life-friendly policy choices.”
As always with the blatant religious event, references to belief filled the process. New Jersey Republican Congressman Chris Smith invoked the faith, arguing that anti-abortion activists should remain respectful in their debates with opponents.
“Today we face enormous challenges again and commit ourselves to persevere through prayer, fasting, good works and respect – including those we fundamentally disagree with, even if not reciprocated,” he said.
He later added, “These children need the President of the United States to be their friend and advocate, not some other powerful adversary.”
At least two of the speakers were Democrats. Angie Hatton, the minority whip in the Kentucky House of Representatives, said their Christian beliefs guide their voices in “protecting unborn life” but suggested that the movement needed support from both parties.
“I believe in this year’s theme: Strong Together, Life Unites,” said Hatton, who serves on the national advisory board for Democrats for Life. “I think we need bipartisan efforts to end abortion, not just by banning it, but also by eliminating the reasons women seek abortions in the first place.”
Hatton argued that the anti-abortion movement should take measures that are “for the life of all people,” such as improving access to health care for impoverished people, paying a living wage for working mothers, making childcare and preschool affordable, as well as the Financing of care and adoption services.
“Just as I have found the political courage to speak the pro-life message as a Democrat, I ask pro-life Republicans to find the courage to support not only anti-abortion legislation but pro-babies and babies as well Maternal legislation, ”she said.
The lineup also included several prominent Conservative religious figures. Joseph F. Naumann, Catholic Archbishop of Kansas City, Kansas, and Cissie Graham Lynch, a senior adviser to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, both offered prayers. JD Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, shared a story about how a student decided not to have an abortion after hearing him speak.
“I march because real life is at stake,” he said.
The event headliner was former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow. Tebow, a vocal evangelical Christian, shared how his mother, a missionary, decided to give birth to him despite difficulties with his pregnancy and advice from doctors suggesting she had an abortion.
“I am so grateful that my mother gave me a chance in life,” he said before adding, “Do you know who I believe stands and stands for life? Our Savior, Jesus. “
Tebow then gave a long, faith-filled lecture in which he repeatedly quoted Scripture.
“I’ve given so much of my life to the sport,” he said. “People might say I loved it, but that goes for trophies that rust and for praise from people who will forget your name. Does it really matter? I do not believe that. But you see, passionate about Jesus and passionate about life and passionate about people and passionate about those who have been thrown away and neglected and forgotten – that’s worthy, this is meaningful, this is real meaning. “
After he finished, a group of speakers and movement officials wearing red March for Life masks led a small personal march in downtown Washington that ended at the US Supreme Court.
“This year we just felt that we need to talk about unity and diversity in order to create unity,” Mancini told an EWTN reporter as she marched.
Although not listed as a speaker, the event also included two short videos starring a more divisive figure in Abby Johnson, a prominent anti-abortion activist and Catholic, who spoke at the March for Life 2019. Johnson also delivered a speech in December at the Jericho March, a major Conservative meeting in Washington that was convened to protest Joe Biden’s victory and called Biden’s presidency a “fake”.
The activist gave a speech on the anti-abortion movement the day before the January 6 attack on the Capitol, in which she said, “If you are not standing in front of abortion clinics and demanding justice for these unborn babies, then you are part of the problem . “
She added, “It is time, patriots, to stop worrying about offending your neighbor and worrying about offending the heart of God. It’s time to get up. It’s time to fight back. “
According to VICE News, Johnson also posted on Facebook on the day of the uprising that she had “a little pepper spray” in her lungs after being “light in the fight”, despite her publicist claiming she arrived at the Capitol after the “unauthorized incident “.
Her video appearance on the March for Life mostly benefited government departments she belongs to, and she had little to say to the crowd.
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