President Donald Trump became the first president to attend the March for Life rally in its 47th year on the National Mall on Friday.
“It is my profound honor to be the first president in history to attend the March for Life,” Trump proudly declared at the gathering on the National Mall preceding the march. “Unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House.”
At the demonstration, Trump made clear his commitment to pro-life values while hundreds of protestors carried signs declaring Trump the most pro-life president in history.
“Every child is a precious and sacred gift from god,” Trump said. “When we see the image of a baby in the womb, we glimpse the majesty of god’s creation.”
The crowd was eager to welcome Trump. The announcement that the president would appear was made just two days earlier on the 47th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in Roe v. Wade.
“I lost my mind,” said Vincent Paddon who flew from Seattle to attend the march. “It was incredible. I was so excited.”
— Tristan Justice (@JusticeTristan) January 24, 2020
While the Women’s March has become decidedly anti-Trump, the March for Life has become increasingly pro-Trump. Thousands of pro-life demonstrators held up signs offering Trump their blessing into the movement, despite the many who were initially skeptical of Trump’s commitment to the sanctity of life.
“I was a little skeptical at first,” said rally attendee Ken Berman sporting a pro-Trump hat, but added that after three years of Trump in the White House, his concerns have largely been abated by the appointment of conservative judges.
Donald Sweeting, the president of Colorado Christian University which brought about 200 students to the march, also said he was skeptical but that Trump had earned his trust on abortion.
“There’s never been a president to challenge the abortion industry quite like Trump,” Sweeting said.
Trump’s first attendance at the annual event comes 10 months before voters return to the polls in November to decide on whether the president will get another term in office. In 2017, Vice President Mike Pence became the first sitting vice president to attend the event. In 2018 and 2019, Trump addressed the crowd by video while Pence made a surprise visit last year.
Pro-life presidents now have no excuse not to attend the largest pro-life demonstration in the country after decades of past presidents and vice presidents have been absent from the march.
The president’s remarks however, were made within eyeshot of the Senate chambers deliberating the president’s impeachment trial. And although the March for Life is a bipartisan event, Trump criticized the extreme abortion views of the Democratic party, which is less than two weeks away from their first primary of 2020.
“They are coming after me because I’m fighting for you,” Trump said. “And we are fighting for those who have no voice. And we will win because we know how to win.”
Trump took a swing at “far left” critics and chastised Democratic attacks on faith-based charities. The president also spoke out against free speech issues on college campuses, further wooing the conservative base that showed up primarily to protest abortion.
To pair it with the event, the Trump campaign launched “Pro-Life Voices for Trump” on Friday to mobilize pro-life voters to get out and vote for the president in November. The group is led by Marjorie Dannenfelser, who also led the coalition in the 2016 general election and is the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a group endorsing pro-life candidates for office.
Dannenfelser admitted that she too, was skeptical at first of Trump’s commitment to pro-life issues and actually opposed Trump in the beginning. Four years ago, Dannenfelser even wrote a letter to Iowa voters urging Iowans “to support anyone but Trump,” in the 2016 Republican caucus because when it came to abortion, “Mr. Trump cannot be trusted.”
“He was my last choice until he became my first choice,” Dannenfelser told The Federalist, but said she came to “completely embrace” Trump through the election after extracting “concrete commitments.”
Since Trump was sworn into office, the president has held up his end of the bargain, championing pro-life policies and appointing two conservative Supreme Court justices offering pro-life activists hope that the days of Roe v. Wade could be numbered.
Dannenfelser said Trump’s attendance at the rally on Friday was a critical cultural moment that would pump added energy into a galvanized base and raise turn out in key states that could decide the election.
“This group here, going back home and recruiting all of their friends especially to vote in battleground states could be the difference between winning and losing in places like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, etc.,” Dannenfelser argued, adding that she thinks the pro-life vote will close the margins for Trump in places that pro-life Democrats have been ignored.
Whether abortion will be a deciding issue in the election remains to be seen, but it does have a chance to boost turn out as Democrats have further radicalized on the issue over the course of the Democratic presidential primary.
For example, Democrats in the Virginia statehouse are currently considering a bill that would amend the Virginia Constitution to make abortion access a permanent legal right. Last January, they presented a bill that would repeal restrictions on abortion, allowing terminations up until the moment of birth, which Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam also backed. Last year, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the “Reproductive Health Act” into law, a similar bill allowing late term abortion.
During the November Democratic debate, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who supports few restrictions if any on abortion said there was no room for pro-life Democrats in the Democratic Party.
“I believe that abortion rights are human rights. I believe that they are also economic rights. And protecting the right of a woman to be able to make decisions about her own body is fundamentally what we do and what we stand for as a Democratic Party,” Warren told the primetime audience.