COMMENTARY

"March for Life" is a misnomer — GOP's pro-COVID stance makes clear

There's nothing "pro-life" about a Supreme Court or conservative groups that reject life-saving COVID-19 vaccines

By Amanda Marcotte

Published January 21, 2022 1:05PM (EST)

Pro-life demonstrators march during the "Right To Life" rally on January 15, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. The Catholic Pro-Life Community, Texans for Life Coalition, the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, and the Diocese of Fort Worth North hosted the Texas March for Life rally where people gathered to instigate the overturning of Roe v. Wade, a Supreme Court decision that permitted states throughout the country in legalizing abortion under certain regulations. The 49th anniversary of the decision to legalize abortion falls on January 22. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
Pro-life demonstrators march during the "Right To Life" rally on January 15, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. The Catholic Pro-Life Community, Texans for Life Coalition, the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, and the Diocese of Fort Worth North hosted the Texas March for Life rally where people gathered to instigate the overturning of Roe v. Wade, a Supreme Court decision that permitted states throughout the country in legalizing abortion under certain regulations. The 49th anniversary of the decision to legalize abortion falls on January 22. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Friday is the misleadingly named "March for Life," an annual event where the anti-choice brigade descends on Washington D.C. to march, speechify and party for the cause of forcing childbirth as punishment for sex. Anti-choicers are the OGs of right-wing trolling, which is why Friday's marchers are willing to brave the grim winter weather just to attach their misogynist march to the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. This year's theme — "Equality Begins in the Womb" — is an even nastier troll, hijacking the language of social justice while fighting to deprive every human with a uterus of their basic human rights. 

Trolls being trolls, of course, the marchers are no doubt be especially giddy this year, as nearly every legal expert believes this will be the year that the Supreme Court, with its three Donald Trump appointees, overturns Roe. So expect lots of sanctimonious speeches praising the Republican justices for their supposedly "pro-life" ways and waxing poetic about how the GOP supposedly stands for "life." But remember that this empty posturing was always trollish nonsense from a party that opposes universal health care. It's especially grim in the face of the ongoing GOP war on the COVID-19 vaccine and their efforts to prolong the pandemic, no matter how many hundreds of thousands of lives are lost in the process. 

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After all, it was just last week that these supposedly "pro-life" justices nullified President Joe Biden's vaccine mandate on private employers. The ranks of those turning out for the March for Life are flush with people who have spent the last year discouraging vaccination and fighting every effort by the Biden administration to vaccinate Americans. In turn, more Americans died of COVID-19 in 2021 than in 2020, despite the introduction of vaccines that dramatically reduce the chance of dying of the disease. This remains true even in the face of the highly contagious omicron variant, as evidence collected by New York City's health department shows. 


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The March for Life itself appears to be taking a carefully neutral stance on the matter of vaccination, but dig even an inch deeper, and it becomes clear how central the supposed "pro-life" movement has been to the right's anti-vaccination campaign and so many unnecessary deaths.

Lifesitenews, the pre-eminent anti-abortion website that provides live coverage of the March for Life, is absolutely blanketed with vaccine disinformation. On the front page alone is a false story claiming the vaccine is dangerous for children, another false story claiming that the vaccine causes miscarriages, and multiple stories celebrating anti-vaxxers and fear-mongering about vaccine mandates. 

Multiple speakers scheduled for this "pro-life" rally have also stood against life-saving mandates and other efforts to slow the death rate from COVID-19.

Alliance Defending Freedom lawyer Kristen Waggoner has repeatedly spoken out against vaccine mandates as "unlawful" and claimed (falsely) that they will lead to massive staffing shortages. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., pushed for a law to block Biden's vaccine mandate, calling it "overreach of federal authority, unconstitutional, and disrespect Americans' rights." And while the top-billed speaker — has-been actor Kirk Cameron — has been largely silent about vaccines, he repeatedly had trolling events to protest temporary lockdowns meant to prevent the spread of the disease pre-vaccine. 

RELATED: Are women people? Why the Supreme Court just signed off on a Texas law that denies women's humanity

The list of March for Life sponsors is a similar murder's row of anti-vaccine groups.

The Thomas More Society has been offering legal support for people trying to evade vaccine mandates. The Heritage Foundation filed a brief with the Supreme Court demanding an end to Biden's vaccine mandate. Concerned Women for America declared vaccines an "outright violation of Americans' civil liberties." 

It's easy to call these people hypocrites. After all, to protect the "lives" of mindless embryos, they want to force women to lose jobs and educational opportunities, be trapped in abusive relationships, and give their bodies over to the lengthy and often downright dangerous process of childbearing. But when it comes to ending a pandemic that is killing over a thousand Americans — real people, with minds and desires and loved ones — a small shot and a day off work to recover is treated as a bridge too far. To call them "hypocrites," however, is to assume that their posturing about "life" ever had any validity to it whatsoever. It never has. 


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On the contrary, there's a dark consistency between the anti-vaccination and anti-choice worldviews. Both are hostile to preventive health care, especially in light of the anti-choice movement's turn in recent years towards fighting contraception access. And, despite anti-vaccine conservatives trolling by stealing the "my body, my choice" language, their opposition to vaccines is very much a strike against bodily autonomy rights. Ultimately, they're claiming a "right" to spread COVID wherever they want and to violate the basic right of others to go to work, to the store, or anywhere else without an undue threat of contagious disease.

And both are wholly intertwined with the GOP's authoritarianism.

The deliberate stoking of the pandemic by right-wing forces has ultimately been about — and very successful at — sabotaging Biden's presidency by eroding his ability to fight the pandemic. That's not about "life." If anything, there appears to be no limit to the number of lives, even Republican lives, that Republicans are happy to sacrifice to undermine Biden. As with everything on the right, it's about power: The power to force pregnancy on others, the power to force COVID-19 on others, and ultimately, the power to force Republican control on an American population that rejects them.

The anti-choice movement has always been the vanguard of American authoritarianism, and now their sadistic and power-hungry worldview has taken over the entire Republican Party. The relationship between the anti-choice ideology and the pro-COVID one is just the latest troubling indicator of where this is all headed. 


Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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