Trump Speaks To Abortion-Rights Opponents At 'March For Life'

Jan 20, 2018
Originally published on January 21, 2018 7:02 am
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

As a candidate and now as president, Donald Trump has aligned himself with anti-abortion rights activists. In his first year in office, he handed several victories to that movement. Yesterday, Trump addressed the abortion rights opponents at the rally known as the March for Life.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Under my administration, we will always defend the very first right in the Declaration of Independence, and that is the right to life.

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SIMON: Trump was the very first sitting president to address the annual march live via satellite from the White House. NPR's Sarah McCammon covered the Trump campaign. She now covers the abortion debate and joins us now.

Sarah, thanks for being with us.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: What else did he tell the group?

MCCAMMON: So he invoked a lot of religious language, which seemed sure to appeal to many people in the crowd. It's not an exclusively religious event but draws a lot of Catholics and evangelicals. He called life a gift from God and a miracle. And the president highlighted some of his actions over the past year, including a ban on federal funding for groups overseas that provide or refer patients for abortions also the recent creation of a conscience and religious freedom division, as it's called, at the federal Department of Health and Human Services, designed to protect health workers who have moral or religious objections to procedures like abortion - to being involved.

SIMON: And Sarah, Donald Trump was not always such a champion of this movement, was he?

MCCAMMON: Right. Remember that before he was a candidate for president, Trump described himself as pro-choice. Now that shifted at some point, certainly by the time he ran for the GOP nomination. Then and as president, he's courted religious conservatives and abortion rights opponents. And of course, Scott, that's not unique. You know, past Republican presidents have generally toed the line on opposing abortion rights. Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush both phoned in to the March for Life in the past.

But in the eyes of many social and religious conservatives I talked to, Trump has gone further. He was introduced at the event by his vice president, Mike Pence, who called him the most pro-life president in American history.

SIMON: And abortion rights opponents have gotten a lot of support from the president on some issues that are very important to them. Do they have other things they would like President Trump to do?

MCCAMMON: Right. They feel - many - that he has delivered on his campaign promises - choosing a vice president like Mike Pence who's very popular with abortion rights opponents, some of his Cabinet appointments, judicial nominations like Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. But many tell me they're frustrated with Congress, especially the Senate, which they'd like to do more to, for instance, approve some of Trump's lower court judicial nominees and move along legislation restricting abortion rights.

We should also note, Scott, that some abortion opponents in the crowd yesterday told our colleagues they didn't really like President Trump and didn't really like him being there even if they do appreciate his opposition to abortion rights. And they saw his video appearance at the March for Life as a distraction.

SIMON: NPR's Sarah McCammon, thanks so much for being with us.

MCCAMMON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.