March for Life: Trump to give anti-abortion demo a rare endorsement

Live address from Rose Garden on Friday will amount to most robust showing of White House support in event’s history

Donald Trump will give an overt White House endorsement to anti-abortion demonstrators on Friday as the annual March for Life gathers in Washington.

In what amounts to the strongest showing of White House support in the event’s history, Trump will become the first president in 45 years to make a public appearance.

While thousands of anti-abortion demonstrators gather near the Washington Monument, in sight of the White House, Trump will address them live via video link from the Rose Garden – the traditional staging ground for major policy announcements and diplomatic receptions.

His comments will mark the second year running that the White House has warmly embraced the event. Last year, the vice-president, Mike Pence, and Trump’s adviser Kellyanne Conway both appeared at a March for Life rally, making them the highest-ranking White House members ever to have done so.

Although both Ronald Reagan and George W Bush addressed the crowds, Bush did so via a telephone call from Roswell, New Mexico; Reagan, resisting pressure to attend in person, spoke over a loudspeaker set up just outside the White House gates.

Trump’s address is a reminder that there is no trace of the dilemma his presidency once posed to anti-abortion rights activists.

Abortion was one of the issues on which Trump made a sharp about-face as he became the Republican presidential nominee – evolving from someone who was “very pro-choice” to a presidential candidate who supported “some form of punishment” for women who have abortions, a comment he later disavowed.

Congress hasn’t passed any of the sweeping anti-abortion measures Trump promised to sign while he was a candidate. Still, in his first year in office, Trump placed a dramatic limit on US funding for international health groups that even offer information about abortion and nominated Neil Gorsuch to the supreme court, where he is expected to firmly oppose abortion rights.

Abortion was one of the issues on which Trump has made a sharp about-face.
Abortion is one of the issues on which Trump has made a sharp about-face. Photograph: Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images

“President Trump’s video address to the March for Life is a crowning moment in a partnership that began before he was elected,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of SBA List, the country’s largest anti-abortion political action committee. “This is a critical tipping point in pro-life advocacy … Momentum is on the side of life and so is the Trump administration.”

For decades before he entered the presidential race, Trump supported pro-abortion rights groups and described himself as “pro-choice in every respect” and “very pro-choice”.

In 2011, when he began to flirt in earnest with a presidential run, Trump told an audience of conservative activists: “I am pro-life.” But he dithered about the particulars of his new position during the 2016 primary. He ducked calls to promise he would defund Planned Parenthood, and he suggested that as president, he would make no special efforts to help overturn Roe v Wade, the US supreme court ruling that established a right to abortion.

As the Republican primaries began, Dannenfelser begged voters to “support anyone but Trump”.

Bit by bit, however, Trump’s views fell into line with those of conventional anti-abortion rights advocates. Trump promised to nominate “pro-life judges” – including to the supreme court – and selected as his running mate Mike Pence, one of the country’s staunchest anti-abortion politicians.

He also vowed to sign new restrictions on the procedure, a promise that helped him secure the support of anti-abortion groups that formerly opposed his candidacy.

“The president is committed to protecting the life of the unborn and he is excited to be part of this historic event,” said the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders.


Molly Redden in New York

The GuardianTramp

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