The March for Life again gathered myriad pro-life advocates to mark the anniversary of legalized abortion in America, and in a surprise appearance Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence introduced a pre-recorded message from President Donald Trump.
“This is a movement founded on love and grounded in the nobility and dignity of every human life,” President Trump said in a pre-recorded message to the massive Jan. 18 rally, before the crowd began its march through the streets of Washington, D.C.
“When we look into the eyes of a newborn child we see the beauty of the human soul and the majesty of God’s creation, we know that every life has meaning and every life is worth protecting.”
“I will always protect the first right in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life,” he said.
Trump touted his administration’s new expansion of the Mexico City Policy, which restricts funds for international organizations that promote or perform abortions. He promoted his administration’s actions to protect religious freedom for medical professionals and religious charities, as well as support for adoption and foster care. Among new proposals are limits barring Title X funds for clinics that perform abortions; and making permanent the Hyde Amendment budget restrictions on abortion funding.
Trump is something of an unlikely ally for the pro-life movement. Before he launched his successful 2016 presidential campaign, Trump had a record of pro-abortion rights statements. That record, his personal character and other actions have drawn criticism and concern from some pro-life leaders. His presidency continues to be one of the most controversial in recent history, with his anti-immigrant crackdowns and rhetoric becoming major concerns for Catholic bishops.
For the 2018 March for Life, Trump had given a special live address to the March for Life rally from the White House Rose Garden.
This year, following the Republicans’ loss of control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 elections, Trump pledged to veto any legislation that would undermine “protection for human life.”
“Every child is a sacred gift from God,” he said. “Each person is unique from day one. That’s a very important phrase. Unique from day one. And so true… Together we will work to save the lives of unborn children.”
Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence appeared in person to introduce the president and to give their own remarks.
“We gather here because we stand for life,” the vice president said. “We gather here because we stand for compassion. We gather here because we believe as our founders did because we believe all of us, born and unborn, are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights and first among these rights is the right to life.”
Pence said that the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision “turned its back on that right,” but that decision gave birth to “a movement born by compassion and love a movement animated by faith and truth, a movement that’s been winning hearts and minds every day since.”
Because of those gathered here, he said, “we know in our hearts that life is winning once again.”
Pence praised and thanked pregnancy center volunteers, adoptive families, and “courageous men and women who step forward to serve in public office” in the U.S. capitol and state legislatures. He urged pro-life advocates to “stand strong” and give reasons for their hope “with gentleness and respect.”
“They will attack you, they will question your hearts to silence others but don’t listen to them. Listen to the truth,” he said. He told marchers that God will not forsake them and they do not stand alone.
“Know that you have an unwavering ally in this vice president and this family. And you have a champion in the President of the United States, President Donald Trump.”
Pence similarly touted Trump administrative actions, saying Trump “kept his promise” on judicial nominees and signed legislation allowing states to defund abortion provider Planned Parenthood.
Karen Pence thanked marchers for “standing in the cold for something that you believe in.”
“Thank you for your stories of courage. Thank you for your stories of regret and forgiveness and starting over,” she said. “Thank you for your stories of hope. Thank you for your stories of inspiration. Thank you for your stories of truth.”
Other elected officials spoke at the event, among them U.S. Rep. Chris Smith R-N.J., a co-chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.
U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, announced the launch of what he said was “the first-ever pro-life caucus in the U.S. Senate.” This caucus, he said, “will allow us to accelerate the momentum of the past few years in promoting and protecting life.”
U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., another co-chair of the House’s pro-life caucus, addressed the event. Lipinski is regarded as a leader among pro-life Democrats. In a tight 2018 primary election, he defeated a strong challenger who was pro-abortion rights.
“We don’t agree on everything We’ve got Republicans, Democrats, independents,” he said.
“We all agree on one thing: every life is sacred. It needs to be protected. No one is expendable. Our highest priority has to defend life from the first moment. Everyone is unique from day one.”
“We will never ever give up,” said Lipinski. “Together we’ll march until one day life, especially the most vulnerable, are protected.”
Louisiana State Rep. Katrina Jackson, a Democrat, claimed Louisiana was the most pro-life state.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat, Republican, black or white, we fight for life,” she told the crowd. “When people ask me ‘Why are you a black female Democrat fighting for life?’ I say ‘Because I’m a Christian first’,” Jackson said.
Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire and host of a popular conservative podcast, faulted the Democratic Party’s strong pro-abortion rights stand, but also challenged Republican legislators’ failure to defund Planned Parenthood.
He depicted abortion as a betrayal of American efforts to secure “the promise of God-given rights, chief among them the rights to life and liberty.”
“We decided that we could safely blot out millions of souls who could not protect themselves,” he said. “We lied to ourselves, and then we built walls around that lie,” Shapiro continued, criticizing “anti-scientific arguments” about life’s origins and “euphemisms” like “termination of pregnancy, abortion, choice.”
“We stand between America and the darkness, and we will march until that darkness is banished forever and all our children can stand in the sunlight,” he told the marchers.
A video sponsored by the Knights of Columbus showed the pro-life work of the Catholic men’s organization, including its ultrasound machine donation program. Its head, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, spoke to the rally and cited a Knights-sponsored poll showing strong support for “substantial restrictions” on abortion and policies to “protect mother and child before birth.”
He also asked eligible men to join the Knights of Columbus, which has about 1.9 million members worldwide. The group’s many friends and allies spoke out after a controversial December Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in which two Democratic senators had questioned a judicial nominee’s membership in the Knights due to their views on abortion rights and marriage.
Dr. Kathi Aultman, a former abortionist and fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, reflected on her journey away from performing abortions.
“If it was wanted, it was a baby. If it wasn’t wanted, it was a fetus,” she said.
While qualms about abortions arose during her neonatal rotation, when she tried to save babies the same gestational age as those she was aborting, only the birth of her daughter made her stop performing abortions.
After realizing that women who kept their babies did better compared to those who had sought abortions, and watching nearly aborted children in her church grow up instead, her views began to change further. Caring family and friends brought her fully to the pro-life cause.
The event emcee Jeanne Mancini said the country was “forever changed” by Roe v. Wade.
“Since that time, we have tragically lost over 60 million American children, little girls and little boys, to abortion. And many mothers and fathers regret having been involved in abortion,” she said.
“We’re marching to end the human rights abuse of our time, abortion,” Mancini told marchers.
“That’s why we march. And that’s why you are so urgently needed.”
She encouraged marchers to share their story on social media, using the hashtag #WhyWeMarch.
Dr. Alveda King, a niece of slain civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., led the closing prayer.