WASHINGTON (AP) – Vice President Mike Pence told a crowd gathered Friday in Washington for the annual March for Life rally that ending taxpayer-funded abortion and choosing a Supreme Court justice who will uphold “God-given” liberties are among top priorities of the Trump administration.
One of Trump’s first official acts after taking office a week ago was to sign an executive order banning U.S. aid to foreign groups that provide abortions. Pence said more such action would continue.
President Donald Trump will “work with the Congress to end taxpayer funding of abortion and abortion providers, and we will devote those resources to health care services for women across America,” said Pence to the crowd gathered near the Washington Monument.
The vice president also accused the U.S. Supreme Court, in its landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, of having “turned away from these timeless ideals.”
Pence said Trump would be nominating a Supreme Court justice next week who “will uphold the God-given liberties enshrined in our Constitution.”
The March for Life is usually held on the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision – Jan. 22 – but it was pushed back this year because of Trump’s inauguration. Pence is the first sitting vice president to address the march. Kellyanne Conway, one of President Donald Trump’s top advisers, also spoke.
In Congress, Republican majorities in both chambers are vowing to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provided more than a third of the nation’s abortions in 2014. They also hope to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Trump has pledged to sign both measures if they reach his desk.
Less than a year ago, with Barack Obama’s second term winding down, things were markedly different. The Supreme Court struck down Texas’ strict regulations on abortion clinics as interfering with a woman’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy. And with polls at the time suggesting Hillary Clinton would likely defeat Trump, abortion opponents worried about an era of liberal majorities on the court.
“The horizon looked bleak for the pro-life movement,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life.
Mancini suggested that many voters chose Trump largely because he pledged to appoint a Supreme Court justice who shared their views on abortion, even if they disagreed with him on other issues.
“I don’t identify as a Republican or a Democrat but I do vote pro-life,” Mancini said.
Abortion opponents also were heartened by a recent study that found the number of abortions in the United States dropped under 1 million in 2014, the lowest total in 40 years. The report by the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, credited increased access to birth control but also a surge in abortion restrictions in many states.
Americans remain deeply divided on abortion.
The latest Gallup survey, released last spring, found that 47 percent of Americans described themselves as pro-choice and 46 percent as pro-life. It also found that 79 percent believed abortion should be legal in either some or all circumstances.
Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said that poll shows why abortion-rights supporters shouldn’t despair. She also said Republicans were taking actions that would result in more illegal abortions and deaths of pregnant women.
“The vast majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade and support the legal right to abortion,” Hogue said.
Friday’s march comes less than a week after one of the largest mass demonstrations in the city’s history, the Women’s March on Washington, which drew more than half a million people opposed to Trump on issues including abortion.