President Donald Trump will be the first sitting president in history to attend the March for Life, an anti-abortion demonstration held every year since the Supreme Court established a woman’s right to choose whether to terminate her pregnancy in 1973.
“This Friday, January 24, President @realDonaldTrump will be the first President in history to attend the March for Life!” the White House tweeted on Wednesday. “See you Friday,” Trump followed up on his Twitter feed, saying he expects a “big crowd.”
Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, said she is “deeply honored to welcome” the president to the 47th annual event first held in 1974 on the one-year anniversary of a Supreme Court decision establishing that a pregnant woman’s right to privacy includes her right to choose whether or not to abort. Planners of the first march pledged to hold a March for Life every year until Roe v. Wade is overturned.
Coinciding with Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, Friday’s march also comes on the heels of unprecedented activity by conservative state legislatures to restrict or ban legalized abortion.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 25 new abortion bans were signed into law in 2019, primarily in the South and Midwest. March for Life organizers termed it “a year of major victories in the pro-life movement.”
As president, Trump has appointed federal judges who oppose abortion and nominated Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh as possible swing votes in any challenge to the constitutionality of Roe v. Wade.
Trump has signed executive orders muzzling doctors from telling women where they can safely get an abortion, targeted funding of Planned Parenthood and issued Health and Human Services plans that describe life as beginning at conception and provide “conscience protections” for healthcare workers related to abortion, sterilization and certain other health services.
On Wednesday the Trump administration approved federal family planning funding for a Texas program that excludes providers who perform or promote abortions.
Trump’s abortion policies are often cited to explain the president’s strong support among evangelical supporters willing to overlook his personal flaws. Speaking to the Southern Baptist Convention in 2018, Vice President Mike Pence dubbed Trump “the most pro-life president in American history.”
Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas and faithful Trump supporter, recently described the president as “the most pro-life, pro-religious liberty, pro-Israel president in history.”
The March for Life starts at the National Mall and ends at the Supreme Court. Evangelist Franklin Graham, another Trump supporter, tweeted: “I’m going to do something on Friday that I’ve never done before. I’m going to DC to walk in the March for Life.”
Ancillary events include the fifth Evangelicals for Life conference scheduled today and tomorrow at McLean Bible Church in Vienna, Virginia. Speakers include Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; former SBC president Bryant White; Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Danny Akin; Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board; and David Platt, pastor of the host church and former president of the SBC International Mission Board.
Various states are holding similar March for Life events. David Hardage, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, is slated to speak Saturday at the 2020 Texas Rally for Life in Austin.
In 2018 Trump spoke to the March for Life via video feed. Vice President Pence spoke at March for Life in 2017.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, head of the Susan B. Anthony List, called Trump’s appearance at the March for Life “a watershed moment for the pro-life movement.”
“We are proud to stand with President Trump and are going all in to ensure his re-election,” said Dannenfelser, whose organization claims to have visited more than 460,000 homes across battleground states in an effort to “defeat abortion extremists.”
Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, called Trump’s announcement “an act of desperation” to gin up a vocal and extreme minority as he faces the escalating reality that his presidency is crumbling around him.”
“He takes refuge in his ability to whip up a radical anti-choice base, spewing falsehoods when he feels threatened,” Hogue said. “The majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade; a majority of Americans reject Trump’s extremism.”
Katey Zeh, interim CEO of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, said Trump’s appearance at the March for Life sends a mixed message.
“While he addresses this group that pretends to honor life, President Trump and his administration have thoroughly compromised life,” said Zeh, an ordained Baptist minister.
“Through policies that separate children from their parents, deny people reproductive freedom and dignity, and criminalize them for making personal health care decisions, President Trump is making it clear that he undermines life,” Zeh said. “For our part, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice will continue to walk alongside women and support them along their reproductive journey. This is our responsibility as citizens and our privilege as people of faith.”