The Capitol Rioters’ Disturbing Ties to the March for Life
Several people who stormed the Capitol are linked to the anti-abortion March for Life. Enough with their dangerous anti-abortion rhetoric, writes comic and activist Lizz Winstead.
On Jan. 6, insurrectionists attacked the U.S. Capitol and brought into sharp focus a threat those of us who have been monitoring right-wing extremists have understood for years. Some of the people who either attended the siege of the Capitol—or played cheerleader for it to their thousands of followers on social media—were the exact same dangerous extremists who harass and threaten patients and doctors daily at reproductive health centers, including some of the biggest stars of the “pro-life” movement.
It was alarming, then, that on Jan. 29, just three weeks after the storming of the Capitol, another D.C. gathering of Trump-loving extremists, one that annually draws tens of thousands, was seemingly moving forward as planned.
It’s called the March For Life.
Since 1974, the March For Life has brought hundreds of thousands of people from all factions of the anti-abortion movement to Washington, D.C., for the nation’s largest anti-abortion rally. Ten days after the coup attempt, under extreme pressure, organizers moved the march online.
It wasn’t because wall-to-wall media coverage led to public outcry, but because activists in the reproductive health, rights, and justice movements sounded the alarm about the intersections between the insurrectionists and the anti-abortion extremists, and the dangers of them returning to our nation’s capital.
Victory? Yes. But let’s be clear: all they’ve done is remove the physical threat to that city on that day. That’s it.
Going online still means speaker after March for Life speaker will poison the virtual civility well, defining abortion as a “holocaust” and comparing it to slavery. They will perpetuate to millions the lies that doctors “rip babies from the womb” and perform “post-birth abortions.”
It was horrifying to watch New Jersey GOP Rep. Chris Smith at the 2019 March For Life, on a stage full of elected officials, including GOP senators James Lankford and Steve Daines, rile up the crowd by describing being pro-choice in this way: “...The choice to do what?” Smith asked. “Dismember a baby? Starve a child to death and then forcibly expel he or she from the womb?”
These are your “pro-life” politicians. This is your “pro-life” movement.
While the March may be the biggest annual gathering of anti-abortion conspiracy theorists, they parrot this message 365 days per year—from pulpits, in political speeches, on cable news, and in front of every single Planned Parenthood and independent abortion clinic in America.
You see, March for Life isn’t just a march. It’s an organization that, along with its many partners, organizes and participates in dangerous disinformation campaigns all year long.
America is demanding accountability for those who incite hatred as they double down on subterfuges like COVID denial, the Big Lie that the election was illegitimate, or that the Democratic Party has child sacrifice raves in non-existent tunnels below D.C. pizza joints.
That means we must also hold accountable all who traffic in dangerous abortion conspiracy theories that lead to violence toward patients and practitioners of abortion care. We’ve given these “pro-life” leaders a pass for far too long.
For 48 years, since Roe v. Wade, politicians, activists and “pro-life” leaders have been fanning flames just as hot. Their rhetoric results in relentless harassment and terrorism, as well as hundreds of laws that disproportionately affect poor people and people of color. And not only do the laws harm the most vulnerable, the movement itself has used poor folks to preach its hatred. In fact, in 2020, Norma McCorvey AKA Jane Roe, the troubled and economically disadvantaged plaintiff in Roe v. Wade, came forward in a documentary to confess that the anti-abortion movement paid her over a quarter of a million dollars to tour the country, reciting the baby-slaughter scripts they wrote for her.
We need to broaden our outrage and ask ourselves: “What happens when preachers tell their congregations the government allows legal child sacrifice every day at abortion clinics?” “What happens when politicians and pundits falsely claim, even after every single investigation has proven otherwise, that Planned Parenthood sells baby parts?”
I’ll tell you what happens: the same thing you witnessed at the Capitol. They firebomb clinics and murder doctors. They terrorize patients and clinic staff, because of lies their leaders tell about the “evil” that happens there. And just like at the Capitol, law enforcement is derelict in its duty to stop most of it.
We must hold them accountable.
The March For Life claims it went virtual this year, at least in part, to keep people safe from COVID-19. Since when? From day one of the pandemic, these very same folks have cried “religious freedom!” as they defied mask mandates and demanded to keep their churches open. Pro-life grifter Abby Johnson—more on her in a second!—posted on Facebook that closing churches because of the virus was “the most cowardly thing” she could think of. “People literally died for our faith,” she added. “What a bunch of wimps… I would NEVER stay away from the Eucharist, because of this, unless my family was sick. We don't close churches during flu season.”
Hell, the Archdiocese of D.C. sued over the restrictions.
If they cared about keeping people safe from COVID-19, they wouldn’t have been planning on bringing hundreds of thousands of people together in the nation’s capital during a pandemic in the first place, and they certainly wouldn’t have waited until just 10 days before the event to call it off.
And oh, the icing on the hypocrisy cake! It was rich to see Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion PAC the Susan B. Anthony List, arguably the most influential perennial March for Life participant, express shocked outrage over the Capitol attack as it was ongoing, by tweeting it was “not reflective of pro-life Americans,” as if the crowd wasn’t literally full of anti-abortion extremists.
Marjorie, may I remind you that “pro-life” activist and convicted abortion clinic bomber John Brockhoeft was part of the D.C. insurrection? Or that the aforementioned Abby Johnson, who was a 2020 keynote speaker at the March For Life, was proudly posting on social media from the Trumpocalypse?
“Not reflective of pro-life Americans,” Marjorie?
How are three months of violent “Stop the Steal” rallies that accused Black-majority cities of voting fraud any different from the violent inciting rhetoric of, say, Bryan Kemper, the 2020 host of the March for Life Youth Rally, here on camera shouting outside of a Planned Parenthood: “What you own is a concentration camp, a modern-day Auschwitz that’s tearing baby boys and girls to pieces?”
These events don’t happen in a vacuum, and we must hold those who spew dangerous anti-abortion rhetoric accountable. Hell, it’s an easy ask. It’s some of the same damn voices who encouraged the Capitol mobs.
GOP Senator Josh Hawley, AKA Mr. January in the insurrection pin-up calendar, told LifesiteNews, “It is a violent act against the defenseless. It violates every principle of morality and should be barred by American law.”
The former occupant of the White House spent his entire term singing one of the anti-abortion extremists’ greatest hits: “The baby is born. The mother meets with the doctor. They take care of the baby. They wrap the baby beautifully. And then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby.”
And then there is Ted Cruz who, during one of the 7,500 GOP debates of 2015, perpetuated that anti-Planned Parenthood chart-topping lie, sing along if you know it: “Planned Parenthood heartlessly barter[s] and sell[s] the body parts of human beings.”
Anti-abortion organizations like March For Life give politicians their talking points and write legislation that not only includes draconian restrictions on care, but sometimes even proposes imprisonment or capital punishment for doctors who perform abortions, and, in some cases, those who have them.
Cheap condemnations of the Capitol attack don’t cover up the anti-abortion movement’s history of promoting violent, dehumanizing rhetoric that has literally given some extremists their warped moral justification for committing violence against abortion patients and providers.
We all must be vigilant in exposing and holding accountable those who perpetuate anti-abortion violence. For too many years providers and activists have been fighting this battle alone. Protecting humanity and the right to provide and access abortion care safely and free from harm is all of our duty.
Lizz Winstead is a comedian and an activist. She is also the co-creator of The Daily Show and founder and chief creative officer of Abortion Access Front.