At the very least, over 100,000 Americans attended the 45th March for Life on Jan. 19, according to organizers.* But Americans wouldn’t know that number by reading the news.
The rally celebrates life and challenges abortion around the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in the United States. Held annually in Washington, D.C., the event rarely receives the coverage it deserves – including the crowd estimates.
Before this year’s march even began, the media already had their own guess as to how many would gather at the 2018 March for Life.
A day before the march, Molly Redden, a reporter for The Guardian, anticipated “thousands of anti-abortion demonstrators.” Similarly, writing for Vox, Tara Isabella Burton declared that “thousands of anti-abortion advocates are expected.” (Though she admitted that, in years past, hundreds of thousands had attended.)
According to Buzzfeed reporters Ema O’Connor and Ellie Hall, “thousands of men and women from around the country” were “expected.”
But who expected that number? Not by the March for Life. In a statement released to press days before the event, the March for Life organizers revealed that they anticipated more than 100,000 attendees. Many in the media appear to have missed that memo, even though, at the same time, some paid close attention to crowd estimates from the Women’s March.
In a piece centered on the Women’s March, The New York Times cited 300,000 at the Chicago Women’s March, according to “organizers.” In the same story, the Times noted “thousands of anti-abortion protesters” at the 2018 March for Life — with no mention of an estimate by organizers.
Many outlets defaulted to just “thousands.”
A report by the Associated Press declared that President Donald Trump addressed “thousands of anti-abortion activists” gathered at the National Mall via live video from the Rose Garden.
Reuters writer Ian Simpson noted “thousands gathered.” In its picture gallery, USA Today remarked on the “thousands of anti-abortion demonstrators” in a caption. And according to CBS, the march regularly attracts only “thousands of activists.”
Many in the media not only failed to cite numbers from organizers, but also hesitated to describe the marchers by their self-proclaimed name: “pro-life.” Instead, they opted for “anti-abortion.” On Friday, an NPR host even called the name of the event into question, and referred to the rally as the “so-called March for Life.”
At the same time, video and photos are aiding the effort to show Americans just how many gather from across the country to lend their voices to the unborn. Hours after this year’s March for Life, pro-life group Students for Life of America released a time-lapse video showing the magnitude of the crowd.
On Facebook, the video already boasts 1.2 million views.
It’s well worth a watch, not only for the American public, but also for those in the media. Let’s hope it inspires them to improve their march coverage in the future.
*NOTE: The March for Life organizers are working on a more conclusive estimate. Once they announce it, this article will be updated to show their findings.