- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2020

March for Life organizers on Thursday prepared leaders of its 100,000-member march for how to navigate the type of aggressive counterprotesters and hostile news media that menaced a Catholic high school group last year.

At a conference at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Washington, the pro-life movement’s top lobbyists urged 800 activists to lead Friday’s march with compassion, courage and graciousness.

Brandi Swindell, founder of pro-life clinic Stanton Healthcare, organized a D.C. protest at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office earlier in the week and encouraged the activists to adopt a fighting spirit.

“You are the abortion lobby’s worst nightmare,” Ms. Swindell told the activists. “And we’re not going to stop until every baby is safe from the violence of abortion.”

March for Life Action president Tom McClusky told the activists they need to reclaim the “L-word,” lobbying, in pursuit of the pro-life agenda. Mr. McClusky, the march’s top lobbyist, encouraged marchers to view themselves as lobbyists like him when they take to the streets of Washington Friday.

“I have one the best jobs in the world because one — look what I lobby on: babies,” Mr. McClusky said. “What could be better than lobbying on babies? Maybe the association of puppies would be second.”

SEE ALSO: March for Life led by Colorado Christian University students

Last year, Covington Catholic High School students sporting pro-Trump apparel encountered anti-Trump protesters after the march, which was captured on video and led to hostile media commentary about the Kentucky students that resulted in litigation.

In 2020, President Trump is making the first-ever physical appearance of a sitting U.S. president, making the prospect of clashes and viral videos perhaps greater. However, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ activists urged the marchers to work with the media and to teach, educate, and encourage reporters to tell their stories.

Lauren McCormack, USCCB associate director of government relations, pressed the marchers to focus on four things in their activism — building relationships, telling compelling stories, listening to others, and saying thank you regardless of the situation.

The 2020 march’s theme is “Life Empowers: Pro-life is pro-woman,” which has rankled the march’s opponents on the left. The liberal watchdogs at Media Matters for America said Thursday that the marchers were actively working to manipulate the media.

“When media cover the March for Life this year, outlets should highlight the potentially dire consequences of abortion opponents’ policies and not fall for the anti-abortion movement’s attempts to paint such restrictions or bans as “empowering” in any way,” said Media Matters’ Julie Tulbert in a statement to reporters.

Despite the president’s involvement, events surrounding the march are not an exclusively right-versus-left political showdown. The Democrats for Life of America Independent PAC quietly invited activists at Thursday’s conference to attend an upscale lunch fundraiser for Rep. Dan Lipinski, an Illinois Democrat who opposes abortion, and “candidates like him” at the upscale Fig & Olive in downtown D.C.

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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