Crowd at March for Life Cheers for Anti-Abortion Gains, With Focus on Faith & Politics

Anti-abortion activists march towards the U.S. Supreme Court during the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

The theme of this year’s March for Life, an annual anti-abortion gathering in the nation’s capital, was supposed to be about science: “Unique from Day One: Pro-Life is Pro-Science.”

But as the masses assembled on the National Mall, speakers and attendees seemed more interested in other topics, namely religion and politics.

Politicians in particular were well represented. Vice President Mike Pence made a surprise appearance at the event, striding on stage with his wife, Karen, to address what March for Life president Jeanne Mancini described as possibly the largest crowd in event history.

“It is my privilege to stand with you for life,” Karen Pence said before introducing the vice president, whom she called a “very pro-life person.”

“We’re the Pences and we’re pro-life!” said the vice president, a conservative Christian who also spoke in person at the gathering in 2017. He described the anti-abortion movement as “animated by faith” and said he had the “privilege” of casting the tie-breaking vote in 2017 in the Senate for legislation that targeted funding for Planned Parenthood. Pence also praised President Donald Trump’s appointment of conservative judges to the federal court of appeals.

“The truth is Donald Trump is the most pro-life president in American history,” he said.

Many signs had a political undertone at the annual
March for Life on Jan. 18, 2019, in Washington, D.C.
RNS photo by Jack Jenkins

Trump was popular with the sprawling crowd, which erupted with shouts and cheers at the mention of his name. Images of Jesus Christ were held aloft next to participants wearing hats that read “TRUMP 2020.” One sign conflated the president’s favored slogan and the theme of the day: “Make unborn babies great again!”

Pence, too, rolled together the strong faith orientation of the crowd and his boss’s image in his speech, citing scripture such as Jeremiah 1:5 (“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”) before introducing a video message from Trump.

“As president I will always defend the first right in our Declaration of Independence: the right to life,” Trump said in the clip. He added that his administration supports faith-based adoption services and announced he has signed a letter promising to veto “any legislation … that weakens the protection of human life.”

Later in the program, Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) explained Trump’s announcement was a direct response to a letter sent to the White House earlier this week by 48 anti-abortion senators asking him to back their cause. Daines then declared he has created “the first pro-life caucus” in the history of the U.S. Senate.

Speakers address the crowd of tens of thousands at
the annual March for Life on Jan. 18, 2019, in
Washington, D.C. RNS photo by Jack Jenkins

The celebration of the anti-abortion movement’s political gains ignored a setback just 24 hours earlier, when Senate Republicans failed in their effort to approve a permanent ban on federal funding of abortion. The legislation, called the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, was seen as a largely symbolic effort to coincide with the march, but it ended up exposing the somewhat permeable political lines of the modern abortion debate: Two Democrats, Sens. Bob Casey and Joe Manchin, voted for the measure, while Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski voted against it.

And while the March for Life primarily featured speeches from Republicans, organizers also pushed for representation from anti-abortion Democrats, such as Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinski and Louisiana State Rep. Katrina Jackson.

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Source: Religion News Service