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Professor misses mark on Ben Shapiro’s upcoming March for Life appearance

Tens of thousands of people gather at the National Mall for the 45th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., January 19, 2018.
Tens of thousands of people gather at the National Mall for the 45th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., January 19, 2018. | (Screenshot: March for Life)

On Tuesday, The Washington Post ran an opinion piece by Charlie Camosy, an associate professor of theology at Fordham University. In the op-ed, Camosy, who identifies as a “left-leaning pro-lifer,” criticizes the March for Life for having writer and commentator Ben Shapiro as their keynote speaker at this January’s March. Camosy states that speakers like Shapiro and President Trump alienate moderate and liberal pro-lifers and make it difficult to build the broad-based coalition necessary to reverse Roe v. Wade and change abortion policy in this country.

Camosy’s criticism is misguided. During the past few years, Ben Shapiro has emerged as one of the most incisive conservative commentators in the country. He has over 1.7 million followers on Twitter and his Daily Wire website receives over 140 million page views on a monthly basis.  Furthermore, Shapiro is anything but a robotic Trump booster. In both his podcasts and writing he has offered both praise and criticism for the Trump administration. His appearance will give this January’s March for Life some star power and should certainly generate some extra attention for this year’s march.

What’s more, Camosy uses Shapiro’s invitation as evidence that politically liberal pro-lifers are marginalized by March for Life organizers. His arguments are unpersuasive. He states that “non-conservative” pro-life groups hold alternative events around the March because they are uncomfortable with its tenor. However, these events are not meant to protest the March, but rather to give like-minded pro-lifers a chance to socialize and network. Furthermore, groups representing liberal pro-lifers participate in various strategy meetings, and many of these groups have booths at both the Students for Life of America (SFLA) conference and the Cardinal O’Connor conference at Georgetown. Both conferences routinely attract large crowds of enthusiastic, and politically diverse, college students.

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Camosy claims that pro-lifers have lost ground among young people after Trump’s election. He goes on to say that the youth outreach group, SFLA has quit using the term “pro-life” in their activist work because of unpleasant connotations. However, SFLA President Kristan Hawkins says that this is a mischaracterization. Writing on Facebook, she said SFLA uses the phrase “anti-abortion” because politically liberal groups have co-opted the phrase “pro-life” for other issues and diluted its meaning. For that reason, it is simply easier when recruiting potential members to ask students if they are pro- or anti-abortion. Furthermore, there is a broad body of survey data which shows that the current generation of young people is more receptive to pro-life arguments than their predecessors.

The pro-life movement has always been ideologically diverse and pro-lifers would do well to highlight that diversity. However, non-conservative pro-lifers should realize that successful outreach to Democrats may take a while to develop. For instance, ten years ago, groups supporting same-sex marriage did not invest much time worrying about their lack of support from Republicans or conservatives. They made consistent inroads into the Democratic Party, gained ground in the court of public opinion, and eventually won the support of some Republicans.  Similarly, a pro-life movement that continues to gain in popularity will, over time, secure the support of more Democratic officeholders.

Overall, the pro-life movement has quietly made great progress in recent years. There has been a sharp and durable increase in the number of pro-life laws being enacted at the state level.   A higher percentage of unintended pregnancies are being carried to term.  Most importantly, America’s abortion rate continues to fall. That said, most of these positive developments receive scant attention from the mainstream media.  It is unfortunate that media outlets like The Washington Post are eager to highlight internal tensions in the pro-life movement instead of giving pro-lifers an opportunity to promote our arguments and tout the impressive progress we have made.

Originally posted at

Michael J. New is a Visiting Associate Professor at Ave Maria University and an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_J_New

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