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March for Life buoyant over Trump’s anti-abortion promises

The March for Life crowd smiles as man holds up a child at the rally on Jan. 27, 2017, in Washington, D.C. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

WASHINGTON (RNS) A week after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, throngs of anti-abortion marchers gathered near the White House to applaud his administration’s actions and his plans to support their cause.

And they cheered top officials of the new administration who spoke at the march. Their presence represented a break from previous years in which the White House was not represented in person at the rally.

“Life is winning in America and today is a celebration of that progress,” said Vice President Mike Pence, who was joined Friday (Jan. 27) by his wife Karen and daughter Charlotte on the stage in the shadow of the Washington Monument.

Vice President Mike Pence addresses the March for Life crowd on Jan. 27, 2017, in Washington, D.C. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Vice President Mike Pence addresses the March for Life crowd on Jan. 27, 2017, in Washington, D.C. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

He, along with members of the crowd before the rally, highlighted Trump’s signing of a memo on Monday that re-established the so-called “Mexico City Policy,” which halts government funding of groups that support or conduct abortions overseas.

And next week, he said, “President Donald Trump will announce his Supreme Court nominee who will uphold the God-given liberties enshrined in our Constitution in the tradition of the late and great Justice Antonin Scalia.”

Pence also called on the crowd to foster a movement of “love, not anger.”

“I believe we will continue to win the hearts and minds of the rising generation if our hearts first break for young mothers and their unborn children and if we, each of us, do all we can to meet them where they are with generosity, not judgment,” he said.

The mood, even as clouds increased and temperatures seemed to drop, was buoyant.

People jumped and sang along to music and chanted “life” after March for Life President Jeanne Mancini prompted them with the word “pro.” When people held their babies high in the air, others around them cheered.

Pence was one of two administration officials who addressed the crowd, gathered for the 44th year for the annual protest of the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

Kellyanne Conway speaks during the March for Life rally on Jan. 27, 2017, in Washington, D.C. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Kellyanne Conway speaks during the March for Life rally on Jan. 27, 2017, in Washington, D.C. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

“This is a new day, a new dawn for life,” said Kellyanne Conway, who drew screams of delight when she identified herself as a Catholic, along with her titles of wife, mother and a “pro-life” counselor to the new president. “We hear you. We see you. We respect you and we look forward to working with you.”

Even as the Trump administration made plans to restrict abortion services in the U.S. and abroad, members of the crowd set their goals even higher.

“We’re here to show our elected officials the overwhelming support for repeal of Roe v. Wade and the subsequent holocaust of the murder of innocents,” said Dr. Mark Doherty, a cancer surgeon from Arlington, Va., who wore the white coat of the Catholic Medical Association and stood in the front row of the crowd before the rally began.

From Indiana to Kansas to Florida, senior citizens and students filled the monument grounds to hear speeches from religious, sports and political celebrities before marching to the Supreme Court.

A sign at the March for Life on Jan. 27, 2017. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

A sign at the March for Life on Jan. 27, 2017. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York opened the event in prayer while Church of God in Christ Bishop Vincent Mathews Jr. gave the benediction. Christian author Eric Metaxas prayed for Madonna’s conversion and Baltimore Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson spoke of supporting life for everyone — the unborn, the poor, the sexually trafficked as well as the elite.

Referring to the large, mostly pro-abortion-rights throngs at the recent Women’s March on Washington, Mancini said it was more important to focus on the numbers of lives lost to abortion than on the size of the crowd.

“We stand here for them today,” she said. “We stand for the little innocent children who have lost their lives and we stand for their mothers who regret being involved in this sin, abortion. … Pro-life is pro-woman.”

The March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 27, 2017. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

The March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 27, 2017. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Members of the crowd rejoiced in the departure of the Obama administration, which they considered to be the antithesis of their anti-abortion activism.

“I believe that we had a culture of death and destruction of the unborn for eight years and we finally have hope that life will be the utmost priority,” said Roberta Vacca of Westerly, R.I., who snagged a spot close to the stage.

Many, especially younger members of the audience, hoped to see a change in the legal status of abortion in their lifetimes — and some predicted the next time they gathered on the National Mall it would be for a celebration instead of a protest.

“I’m hoping that we’re able to stop abortion,” said Macy Vascocu of St. Mary’s Catholic High School in Natchitoches, La, “and protect our future generations.”

About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.

13 Comments

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  • The best way to prevent abortions is to give women access to birth control. It confuses me why the so-called pro-life movement does not support women’s access to birth control and women’s health care. They don’t’ seem to care about the baby after its born.

  • Note, no cars were burned nor did any business have their windows smashed in, nor was anyone spit upon during yesterday’s march.

  • Do you mean access like obtaining a prescription through their PCP or visiting most family care aisles in most grocery store or pharmacies? That kind of access?

  • You have to be able to afford to pay for the prescription and you have to have a PCP. control methods available in pharmacies and grocery stores do not work very well. I did go to Planned Parenthood for birth control, although when I started taking birth control pills, I was doing it for medical reasons. Planned Parenthood was great. They went through every method of birth control and told me honestly the pros and the cons of each method. My Gyn. would never have the time to do that. Then they gave me free birth control pills.

  • They aren’t going to overturn Roe v Wade anytime soon but they don’t need to. Before Trump the Red States were enacting laws that limited access to abortion via a bunch of nonsense laws that have worked. Even though those laws will eventually be overturned, the damage is done in states such as Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas to name a few.

  • Pence, Conway, Trump and the rest of the anti-choice gang simply have no respect for women’s rights of conscience, religious liberty, or health. They only want government to impose THEIR narrow, unbiblical, unscientific dogma on all women. Disgusting. — Edd Doerr

  • Apparently only 64% of US women of reproductive age use birth control. An estimated 50% of pregnancies are unintended although in 60% of these, women used some kind of birth control during the month of conception. The John Hopkins Manual of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends exactly that kind of approach.

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