March for Life media coverage – thank Harper

Some critics have called Harper’s decision not to include abortion in the G8 maternal health plan inconsistent, considering Canada is one of the only countries in the world to have absolutely no legal restrictions on abortion. Why refuse abortions to third world nations, yet put up no opposition to the practice in your own country? Perhaps the critics are right, but in Harper’s eyes, he is being perfectly consistent. After all, by leaving out abortion in the maternal health plan he is merely sticking to the same simple policy he has followed with diligence since his term began:  “Let me be very clear on the positions I’ve have taken on [abortion]. I want there to be no misunderstanding. I’ve said repeatedly, that I will not, that my Conservative government will not be tabling any legislation impacting in any way a woman’s right to choose.”

Harper really seems to think he has taken a no-stance stance on abortion; he thinks he has developed a no-policy policy. What he doesn’t seem to understand is that such thing is not possible, not when it comes to the “A” word. For better or for worse, this is an issue that has and always will be considered a matter of life or death to some people, and a matter of freedom or subjugation to others. Harper cannot hide from it forever.

Yet, there is no use pretending he has not done so thus far, and done so rather successfully. For four years he has led a shaky minority through an increasingly feeble gauntlet of parliamentary opposition, skilfully managing to avoid the treacherous shoal of the abortion issue that (it is commonly believed) has sunk better men before him (e.g. Stockwell Day). All the desperate barbs shot by the fear-mongering liberal establishment have landed, harmless, like so many marshmallows. The Left simply cannot pin the anti-abortion Scarlet Letter on Harper, which is just as he likes.

This state of affairs in Canada has worked to the advantage and disadvantage of both sides of the debate. The pro-aborts, of course, get the best of it, as the current legal vacuum works much to the advantage of their surgical vacuums.  Yet pro-lifers have also met with some unexpected windfalls. One example is the absence of abortion in the G8 maternal health plan, which itself led to an even more unexpected windfall – the massive media coverage given to the National March for Life in Ottawa this year.

Pro-lifers will always remember the morning after the March, when we woke up to find the entire Canadian media establishment had gone mad.

That they had gone mad was clear by the fact that there were giant pictures of the National March for Life splayed across newspapers, websites, and television screens accompanied by full-length reports. In 2009, where the March had been covered at all, attendance had been reported at a few thousand, or even “hundreds” (CBC), absurdly far below the 12,000 estimated by organizers. This year Campaign Life Coalition estimated attendance at a 12,500, while the suddenly enthusiastic mainstream media and quoted estimates at anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000. The media used adjectives like “huge,” “high-spirited” and “buoyed,” even giving quotes and sound bites from some of the speeches. Smaller provincial rallies held across Canada on the same day were also delighted to find themselves unexpectedly in the limelight.

Indeed, in scope and quality the 2010 Canadian March for Life news coverage was unprecedented.

It did not take us long to figure out why. The answer lay in such headlines as “Huge anti-abortion rally hails Canada’s new foreign-aid stand” (The Toronto Star), “Anti-abortion activists praise Harper’s maternal-health stand” (The Globe and Mail), and “Anti-abortion rally draws thousands: Many applaud PM’s stance on funding abroad, but call for action at home” (Ottawa Citizen).

It seems that in their obsessive desire to pin anti-abortion behaviour on Harper, the mainstream media made the strategic decision to lift, in one sudden and dramatic sweep, their moratorium on pro-life expression at the moment when it was most vocal. Thus, a nation with only the foggiest knowledge of the existence of a concerted pro-life movement on their soil was suddenly witness to a display of fervour at a scale never before seen. What else could explain such a phenomenon besides the encouraging influence of Harper’s anti-abortion G8 maternal health plan? And just in case the public did not reach that conclusion, the media reached if for them, as this opening paragraph of a Toronto Star article shows: “Heartened and emboldened by Canada’s new anti-abortion stand on foreign aid, thousands of pro-life campaigners flooded in unprecedented numbers to Parliament Hill on Thursday, daring to hope that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government will take further steps against abortion at home as well as abroad.”

Their tactic was fear-mongering, clear and simple. The liberal media were trying to spin the March for Life as an enthusiastic anti-abortion response to Harper’s secret agenda revealing itself in foreign policy. Those following the media’s narrative could be forgiven for thinking that Harper was practically leading the March himself, baton in hand. “First he went for third-world countries,” was the implication, “next he’s coming for us.” The public had no way of knowing that the National March for Life had been nearly as large and enthusiastic last year, and that these marches had been occurring for years now, long before the G8 maternal health plan was a twinkle in Harper’s eye.

However, as usual the media were blind to one major flaw in their tactic, being that the Canadian public does not share in their terror of the pro-life cause. Contrary to what the liberal elite may think, the public do not wake up at night sweating with icy fear from nightmares of patriarchal Christian zealots wielding bloody hangers, and thus the public would not be so very disturbed at the sight of a large and vibrant pro-life rally.

As for pro-lifers, we were just glad of the publicity. And who knows – maybe the media have set a precedence they will be obliged to honour in the years to come?

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