Six days after the Women’s March on Washington brought half a million people to the nation’s capital in protest of the inauguration of President Donald Trump, tens of thousands packed the National Mall on Friday in an annual protest of legalized abortion. The 44th annual March for Life, which launched the year abortion became legal in the U.S., was notable for multiple reasons. It’s the first edition of the March held during the Trump administration — he publicly endorsed the march in a post on Twitter, saying it has his “full support” — and many expect Trump to do everything within his power to curb abortion. Indeed, during the first week of his presidency, Trump reinstated the “Mexico City policy,” which prevents foreign groups that provide abortions or even information about the procedure, from receiving funds from the U.S. government.
The 2017 March for Life is also significant because it marked the first time that a sitting U.S. vice president attended and addressed the march. At the rally that preceded the march, Vice President Mike Pence delivered remarks in which he vowed “to end taxpayer funding of abortion and abortion providers, and we will devote those resources to health care services for women across America.” Pence told demonstrators that the election of Trump signaled a cultural turning point. “Be assured, along with you, we will not grow weary. We will not rest until we restore a culture of life in America, for ourselves and for our posterity,” he said, adding, “Life is winning again in America. Today is a celebration of that progress …That is evident in the presence of pro-life majorities in the Congress of the United States of America.”
Watch a clip of Pence’s remarks below.
Pence was not the only Trump official to speak at the event. Top Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway also took to the stage and assured the crowd that the Trump administration is firmly behind the pro-life movement. Conway declared, “I am a wife. A mother. A Catholic. Counselor to the president of the United States of America. And yes, I am pro-life! This is a new day. A new dawn for life.” Conway, who was Trump’s campaign manager, blasted the fields of science and medicine for changing the way Americans think about morality and life. She promised the crowd that it had a friend in the White House. “To the March for Life 2017, allow me to make it very clear,” Conway said. “We hear you, we see you, we respect you, and we look forward to working with you.”
Prior to the march, a “Mass for Life” was held at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. A priest who was in attendance posted a video clip of what he estimated to be 18,000 teenagers simultaneously screaming ‘I stand for life.”
The election of Trump, whom Pence told the crowd had requested he visit the march, has given new hope to pro-lifers who expect Republicans to deliver on House Speaker Paul Ryan’s promise to defund Planned Parenthood, and Trump to nominate a conservative judge to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated last year by the death of Antonin Scalia. The subject of reproductive rights was also one of the chief issues among attendees of the Women’s March. Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards was among the speakers, and she was resolute about the organization’s future. “For the majority of people in this country, Planned Parenthood is not the problem — we’re the solution,” she said. And, extolling her organization’s 100-year history, she promised, “Our doors will stay open.”