The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Pro-lifers, RIP. The pro-death movement is born.

Activists and faith groups protest covid-19 mandates and restrictions at a rally in Washington on Jan. 23. (Shuran Huang for The Washington Post)
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The weekend began with the March for Life. It ended with a march for death.

Anti-vaccine activists decided to piggyback on Friday’s annual antiabortion march in the capital by having a “Defeat the Mandates” rally on Sunday. Combined, the two groups of (mostly) conservative activists engaged in a demonstration of mass inconsistency.

Friday’s crowd invoked the mantra of the pro-life movement: “A child, not a choice.” Sunday’s proclaimed the mantra of the abortion rights movement to oppose vaccines: “My body, my choice.”

Friday’s crowd endorsed the most obtrusive of big-government mandates, laws telling women they can’t make their own reproductive decisions. Sunday’s argued that health decisions must be made by patient and doctor, not government.

Friday’s crowd pleaded for the lives of the most vulnerable. Sunday’s demanded the right to infect the most vulnerable by eschewing vaccines and masks in shared spaces.

It was enough to make one wonder: Does taking ivermectin cause people to lose their sense of irony?

Thousands of people protesting coronavirus vaccine mandates marched from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial on Jan. 23. (Video: Reuters)

The crowds weren’t the same but, collectively, the two rallies captured the hypocrisy of the right at this moment: Protect the unborn, but feel free to infect — and perhaps kill — innocent people already born, including, er, pregnant women. And yet both movements claim to be operating under the authority of “God’s mandate” and “God’s law,” as the anti-vaccine speakers repeatedly put it. God works in mysterious ways, indeed.

In a rare moment of self-awareness at the anti-vaccine rally, JP Sears, the event’s emcee, quipped that because of his belief in natural immunity to the coronavirus, “I kind of feel like a flat-Earther.”

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In a sense, the dual events showed the changing nature of the political right. The March for Life, in its 49th year, is where the right has been; the march for death shows where it is going. The former, held potentially on the cusp of the long-sought overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court, was a joyful assembly; the latter was paranoid and rage-filled.

The well-curated March for Life program avoided harsh language about “baby killers” in favor of calls for compassion. “Every life is worthy of our prayer and our protection, whether in the womb or in the world,” the Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elpidophoros said before his opening prayer. “We can and we must make the case for life both born and unborn, by our example of unconditional love. … We march with compassion, we march with empathy, with love, with our arms extended to embrace all.”

Unconditional love? Embrace all? The angry speakers at the march for death didn’t sign up for that. They railed against medical boards, peer-reviewed journals, vaccine and antiviral manufacturers, expertise of any kind. They declaimed enemies seen and unseen trying to deny them their freedom.

“There are powerful forces against us,” Richard Urso, an ophthalmologist, warned the crowd. “Does anybody trust the news media?”

“No!” the crowd roared.

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“Anybody trust the CDC and FDA?”

“No!”

“Do you trust Fauci?”

“No!”

Pierre Kory, a doctor who promotes the horse dewormer ivermectin for covid-19, added that the sinister “they” are also “killing us with censorship and propaganda” and “manipulating the minds of millions.” Dr. Kory’s prescription: “We must live free or we will die.”

The speakers took turns releasing medical disinformation.

One suggested breathing exercises to combat covid-19. Another repeated false claims that vaccines cause autism.

“The vaccines are killing 15 people for every person it might save,” proclaimed entrepreneur Steve Kirsch, contrary to the facts. “We will kill 100 kids for every child we might save.”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. misinformed the crowd that “if you take the vaccine, you have a 21 percent increased chance of dying over the next six months.”

The conservative activists made common cause not just with the liberal Kennedy gadfly but with the Nation of Islam and one of the outspoken antisemites in its leadership, Rizza Islam. “You used the Black community yet again to push poison,” he said of those who promoted the lifesaving vaccines. “You pimped the Black community and played everyone else.”

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Islam passed on Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan’s vaccine view, too: “If you attempt to force this on us, we will take this as a declaration of war.”

Anti-vaccine leader Del Bigtree rounded out the proceedings by calling for Nuremberg trials for crimes against humanity. “Mark my words: We will hold Tony Fauci accountable, we will hold Deborah Birx accountable, we will hold Joe Biden accountable, but unlike the Nuremberg trials … we are going to come after the press.”

So this new incarnation of the right, after it’s done exercising its absolute right to spread illness and death, will prosecute — and execute — scientists, political opponents and journalists?

Pro-lifers, RIP. The pro-death movement is born.

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