The commentary offered on the March for Life thus far has been interesting, and I'd like to add my two-cents, for whatever they're worth.
First of all, I agree with Skogey about the March ending at the Capitol and not the Supreme Court---certainly, the Supremes are probably, to some extent, influenced by protesters, the wealthy, political expectations, etc- but to support this sort of influence, and even to participate in it, is something any American who believes in the rule of law ought to be ashamed of. Nevertheless, anyone in the legal profession knows as well as I do that good law, and bad law, both come under pressure from political expectations and desires, and that law is the product of compromise to begin with-- pragmatic, dissapointing, and dispiriting, obviously, but unless we determine to have all of our laws made by those ideal philosopher-kings of utopia...law will be an imperfect attempt to reflect a society's values.
Sadly, of course, law has lost any teleological grounding at all-- the idea that law exists to shape and direct a community's values, rather than merely to reflect them, has been all but lost by anyone but the most traditional legal scholars---I include myself in this category because I beleive in the very basic proposition that law might make us good, but this notion is largely lost on the legal community, particularly in the United States. But, as is often the case, I digress.
I had wanted to blog about the March for Life and its role in the pro-life movement in the United States. For my purposes, I will define pro-life as the movement to reduce the nubmer of abortions taking place in this country. I understand the seamless garment issues that narrow definition raises, and, to some extent, I support them, but I also support the notion that the body has many parts- and it isn't wrong to expect different things from hands and head and feet, etc.
So- does the March for Life contribute meaningfully to a reduction in the number of abortions in the United States? I'm not certain. In one sense, as Steve pointed out, its capacity to influence politicians is insignificant. Seeing a constituency may remind lawmakers of their obligation to that constituency, but I believe that it is actually on the agenda of precious few lawmakers to do sometihng to reduce the nubmer of abortions in the United States. Pro-lifers are an easily trusting lot, and by and large we accept the rhetoric of the Republican party, demand very little in the way of results, and profess profound gratitude and adulation for those who toss us even the tiniest of crumbs. The political impact of the March for Life, therefore, seems to be negligable. In fac,t we may be doing ourselves a dissservice by providing "pro-life" politicians the easy opportunity ot appease the masses with one day of lip service rather than substantive results. Furthermore, the March for Life may have the impact of villifying politicians who do not believe in making abortion illegal, but whose agendas, including greater access to health and prenatal care, childcare for working mothers, significant maternity leave, etc would acutally contribute to a culture of life. While we should never be compromising on our attempts to render abortion illegal, we need to stop being averse to working with politicians of all stripes to create an overarchign Culture of Life--and if these folks are villified, that becomes all themore difficult.
Does the March for Life contribute meaningfully to a reduction in the number of abortions in any other way? Again, I'm not certain. Unfortunately, since the political battle does not seem to be working ,the real way to reduce the number of abortions is to help provide those services and resources to pregnant woman who need them in a way that they'll feel compfortable accepting them. In short, to build an authentic culture of life. Unfortunately, the March for Life may impede these sortso f efforts too. If the March becomes our "pro-life activity" and well-meaning people can go, check "do pro-life activity" off their to do lsit, and feel fat and happy and good watching the Super Bowl, then the kind of complacency we've encouraged has not been helpful at all. However, if the March inspires people to create all kinds of creative initiatives for building a culture of life on the lcoal level, it has osme value. I don't know if it does.
Finally, Sam is right. The polemical nature of sidewalk debate can create hatred. No abortions are stopped by villfiying politicians with incorrect ideas, nor is sidewalk debate valauble to anyone. Encouraging this kind of argumentative, militant stance, as opposed to one that is creative, collaborative, and overwhelmingly positive is a dangerous thing.
The folks who may get the most out of the March for Life are those who areworking every day, in some capacity or another, on pro-life initiatives. THese folks might be bouyed up, encouraged, and inspired by seeing other s come out to support them. Or they might grow cyncial at the nubmero f people willing to walk around in the cold, but unwilling to volunteer to stuff envelopes, or put pregnant women up, or collect bottles, or whatever it is. I suppose that depends on temperment.
In spite of the drawbacks, and perhaps the limited means by which the March for Life helps anything, I would, if it were accessible to me, continue to attend, if for no other reaosn than t odemonstrate solidarity with the unborn, and with women in crisis pregnancies. I would like ot demonstrate tihs ina more meaningful and tangible way, but a start is a start, and I'd rather see well-intentioned people do sometihng ,however ineefeictive it might be, than do nothing at all. Perhaps our efforts sohuld be focused on encouraging the March for Life to make sosme changes, to become an expression of solidarity and aplace ot commit to authntic change---perhaps we who oppose many elements of the March should see the seminal goodness in such a gathering and work to nurture it into all that it could be. Ultimately, the entire pro-life movement needs a new and different generation of leaders, working to make authentic changes on a grassroots level. Maybe the AMrch is the right place to start.