“Being pro-life is the new normal.”
Yet Monahan knows her movement is dealing with a complex picture — as do those who support abortion rights. Planned Parenthood recently announced it was moving away from the “pro-choice” label, hoping instead to highlight that each woman has a unique situation that can’t be prejudged.
At the same time, the antiabortion movement has sought to emphasize choice by funding and highlighting Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which seek to support women who don’t want to be pregnant so they don’t have an abortion.
“They have worked hard to co-opt the frame of ‘choice’ that worked in the past for pro-choicers. Their mantra now is, ‘We’re not out on the streets being violent, we’re just making sure women have choices and options,’ ” said Ziad Munson, a Lehigh University sociologist who studies movements, including the March for Life.
Munson said some of the thousands of centers across the country discourage workers from going to antiabortion marches so that potential clients don’t encounter, at a moment of crisis, faces they might interpret as strident.
Monahan is no stranger to the culture wars. Until taking over the march in November, she was the head of outreach on abortion and issues of “human dignity” at the Family Research Council, a conservative think tank and advocacy agency. She had resigned from the Department of Health and Human Services when Obama took office, unhappy with what she felt was a failure to emphasize marriage and sexual abstinence.
Others active in the movement say this campaign season was a particularly tough one, not only because of Obama’s reelection but because of the public outcry against antiabortion candidates who downplayed cases of rape victims.
“The movement has to look honestly at the last election, which can only be seen as a defeat,” said Michael Donohue, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington. “Having said that, I think it’s still very significant that 40 years after Roe, this debate is so vital and even heated at times. I think many people when it was decided and even analysts would be surprised that this issue is as contested as it is. And that’s what the march shows.”