Last Saturday was a day to remember in pro-life history: It saw the best-organized local action on behalf of life ever. And the more local the life issue can be, the more likely pro-life is to prevail.
When mainstream media pretends the pro-life movement doesn’t exist, sometimes street theatre on a grand scale is the way to get noticed. Hence August 22, 2015.
Street theatre, by the way, is not a pejorative term. It is a legitimate tool that has often been the voice of the voiceless.
Remember those travelling players in medieval times? Some of their dramas were religious, or quasi-religious, but in their ad-libbed lines they also voiced the discontent of citizens who couldn’t complain to the local lord.
OK, so what happened on Saturday?
At 353 locations around the country, tens of thousands of grassroots pro-lifers staged public protests in front of local Planned Parenthood clinics.
The day was organized by www.protestpp.com, a coalition of four organizations: Pro-Life Action League, 40 Days for Life, Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, and the new kid on the pro-life grassroots block, Created Equal. There were also 62 other sponsors (including the Human Life Review).
Mark Harrington, national director of Created Equal, was quoted in USA Today about why the street theatre: “We don’t believe this will be solved in Washington D.C., or the state legislatures,” he said. “This will be solved in local communities when they take ownership over their own communities. That’s why we are trying to empower local organizers and pro-life organizations.”
The strategy was effective. Local leaders took ownership by working with local pro-life individuals and organizations. That’s the real achievement: so many locations, so many protests. If this kind of cooperation between and among pro-life groups continues, Planned Parenthood will have much to be nervous about.
St. Paul, MN: 4,000. Aurora, IL: 1,600. Phoenix, AZ: 1,600.Charlotte, NC: 1,200. Tempe, AZ: 1,100. Cincinnati, OH: 1,000. Falls Church, Virginia: 850. Lincoln, Nebraska: 600+. Columbus, Ohio: 600+. Worcester, MA: 350. Toledo, Ohio: 250+. Plano, Texas: 350+. And the honor roll goes on. As of Tuesday, ProtestPP was claiming at least 68,764 demonstrators had turned out—but there were still a number of locations yet to report back. That’s a lot of people to get to do anything on a Saturday morning in August.
No less a Planned Parenthood loyalist than the Washington Post had to cover the phenomenon; you can read the paper’s online story here.
In Kalamazoo, a woman led the prayer, but a deacon got quoted in the local press.
In Boston, some protesters carried crucifixes—something the local NPR station made certain to mention. In the mind of the reporter, that data point says “See, how backwards these people are!” But inside the mind of the reader, that data point might say, “My mom had one of those on the wall, what’s wrong with that?” I bet there were crucifixes carried in civil rights protests in Boston too.
And, of course, there were plenty of protests that did not get coverage at all.
But think of the thousands, nay hundreds of thousands, of cars that drove past those 353 locations. People who were unaware of the Center for Medical Progress videos now have something about which to wonder. Since Members of Congress were home on vacation, some might even have driven past quite spontaneously!
The grassroots street theatre is not without its policy impact as well.
In Washington, Congressional staffers assigned to read the local papers will have to make note of stories covering the protest. So when a Member of Congress wonders, “What do they think about this in my district?” there will be a record in print.
On Saturday, Planned Parenthood did have some help from friends. In Detroit, The Satanic Temple, eager to prove that religious liberty can be invoked to protect abortion rights, came to PP’s defense with a little street theatre of their own.
Did Cecile Richards sound the bugle as this particular cavalry came galloping around the bend?
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Connie Marshner is a commentator and researcher on life and family issues in the Washington, D.C., area.