Thousands of abortion opponents gathered in cold, blustery weather near the Washington Monument Friday and heard Vice President Mike Pence tell the annual March for Life that the Trump administration is determined to advance the fight against abortion.
“We will not grow weary,” he said in a ten-minute address to the assembled throng. “We will not rest, until we restore a culture of life in America for ourselves and our posterity,”
He said the administration is bent on ending tax-payer funding of abortion and abortion providers.
And he said that “next week President Donald Trump will announce a Supreme Court nominee who will uphold the God-given liberty enshrined in our Constitution in the tradition of the late and great Justice Antonin Scalia.”
Scalia, a conservative associate justice of the Supreme Court, died last year.
“Life is winning again in America,” said Pence, who added that Trump asked him to speak at the rally. “That is evident in…the historic election of a president…who I proudly say stands for the right to life.”
Pence was the first U.S. vice president to address the rally in its history.
Bundled against a stiff wind, marchers from around the country descended on the northeast grounds of the monument for the rally and march.
Pence, who has called himself an “evangelical Catholic,” has long been a hero among anti-abortion activists and as governor of Indiana signed what was considered some of the strictest laws on abortion.
Also addressing the crowd was key Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway.
“I am a wife, a mother, a Catholic, counselor to the president of the United States of America and, yes, I am pro-life,” she said.
“This is a new day, a new dawn, for life,” she said.
The right to life “is not a privilege,” she said. “Its is not a choice. It is God-given…This is a time of incredible promise for the pro-life, pro-adoption movement.”
“We hear you,” she told the crowd. “We see you. We respect you. And we look forward to working with you.”
This year, organizers believe they will see a surge of energy with the ascension of a president who is expected to move forward on anti-abortion policies, including defunding Planned Parenthood and appointing an anti-abortion Supreme Court justice.
“He’s pro-life,” Lynn Ray, coordinator of campus ministry at the Louisiana State University at Alexandria, said Friday as she stood on Constitution Avenue with a group from the university. “So that’s good for us.”
“Being that we’re Catholics, we’re very pro-life,” she said. “Every step we take, we take for an unborn baby,” she said. “We’re not persecuting anyone, of course, just marching for the babies.”
The rally began at around 11:45 a.m. Pence spoke shortly noon. The march was to start at 1 p.m., head east on Constitution Avenue, and end at the Supreme Court.
By 10 a.m. the crowd had packed in front of the stage, as hundreds more streamed in to the security checkpoint and down the sidewalks leading to the Mall.
Earlier, Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, listed her four demands for Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress:
– Appoint an anti-abortion justice to the Supreme Court.
– Make the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for many abortions in the United States, into a permanent law rather than the one-year provision that has been extended each year from 1976 to the present.
– Pass a law banning abortion nationwide after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
– Stop all federal funding for Planned Parenthood unless the organization were to somehow stop performing abortions.
The gathering comes a week after Trump’s inauguration and follows last Saturday’s massive Women’s March on Washington.
Asked about the Women’s March, Ray said:
“I’m all about women’s rights, except when it comes to the baby. I believe – it’s my opinion – but I believe a baby is a gift from God, and once the baby is a gift from God, it’s no longer your body, but there’s another body within. And that body has a right also.”
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Julie Zauzmer, Sarah Pulliam Bailey