Trump has become the first sitting US president to directly address the March for Life anti-abortion rally in Washington DC as his administration continues to roll back more Obama-era abortion protections.
President Trump said he was honoured and proud to be addressing the march. “The March for Life,” he said, “is a movement born out of love … you love every child born and unborn because you believe every life is sacred, that every child is a precious gift from God.”
When introducing the President, Vice President Mike Pence called Mr Trump “the most pro-life president in American history”.
“My friends, life is winning in America,” Mr Pence said. The Vice President was the highest-ranking official to address the rally last year. Former Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George W Bush spoke to the marchers by phone.
Carrying signs with phrases such as “Pray to end abortion”, more than 100,000 anti-abortion activists descended on the National Mall in the nation’s capital for the March for Life. The event has taken place each January since 1974 – a year after the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v Wade that affirmed a woman’s right to an abortion at most stages of a pregnancy.
“As you all know, Roe v Wade has resulted in some of the most permissive abortion laws anywhere in the world,” the President said as he criticised the ruling. Mr Trump has promised to nominate more federal judges who oppose abortion with the hope that the ruling will eventually be overturned.
The March for Life coincided with new moves by the Trump administration to roll back abortion protections.
On Thursday, it announced it was expanding religious freedom protections for doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers who object to performing procedures like abortion and gender reassignment surgery. The new protections are aimed at addressing long-held concerns that religious people could be forced to comply with laws and regulations that violate their religious beliefs.
The move also included the creation of an oversight entity within the Department of Health and Human Services called the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division.
The department said it would create the division within its civil rights office to give it “the focus it needs to more vigorously and effectively enforce existing laws protecting the rights of conscience and religious freedom”.
“The federal government has hounded religious hospitals … forcing them to provide services that violate their consciences,” Acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan said. “Medical students, too, have learned to do procedures that violate their consciences.”
Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the senior Democrat on the Senate health committee, said the administration was using the civil rights office as “a tool to restrict access to health care for people who are transgender and women”.
Additionally, the Trump administration has rescinded legal guidance by the administration of his predecessor Barack Obama that had sought to discourage states from defunding organisations that provide abortion services, such as Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood who performed over 323,999 abortions in 2014 condemned Mr Trump’s participation in the rally, noting in a statement that abortion has been legal for more than 40 years.
Mr Trump and his administration have been “laser-focused on using their power to control women’s bodies and health,” the organisation said. However, Planned Parenthood’s own numbers prove that it’s an abortion corporation, focused on abortion, not on women’s health care.
The fact is, Planned Parenthood doesn’t perform a single mammogram and performs less than 2 percent of all women’s cancer screenings in the United States. Yet, as America’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood commits over 30 percent of America’s abortions—887 abortions a day, one abortion every 97 seconds, and over 320,000 abortions in 2015 alone.
The March for Life rally came a day before Mr Trump’s one-year anniversary as president, an event that will be marked by women’s marches in cities across the US, including Washington DC. Everyone needs to get involved in pushing for life and the protection of every baby from it’s day of conception.