WASHINGTON (USA Today) — President Trump called on the Senate to pass a bill outlawing abortions after 20 weeks, telling a group of anti-abortion protesters in the Rose Garden that late-term abortions are "wrong and it has to change."
"Under my administration, we will always defend the very first right in the Declaration of Independence, and that is the right to life," Trump told anti-abortion activists taking part in the March for Life on Friday (Jan. 29).
Trump addressed the annual rally ahead of the 45th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe. v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, which falls on Monday.
Trump's speech to marchers gave the protest added visibility, rededicating himself to a conservative base that he sees as the key to his election victory in 2016.
A top priority for those voters: The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which passed the House on a largely party-line vote in October. But the bill appears unlikely to pass the Senate, where Democrats have enough numbers to force a filibuster.
Abortion rights supporters dispute the science behind the proposed law, and say it's an unconstitutional attempt to restrict a woman's right to have an abortion.
But the White House said Friday the president would continue to push for the bill's passage. "We think it’s important for this administration to be on record in support of life," said White House legislative director Marc Short.
Trump also touted executive action he's taken on abortion-related issues during his first year in office. He reinstated and expanded President Ronald Reagan's Mexico City policy, which forbids U.S. foreign development aid from supporting abortion — a policy critics call the "global gag rule." And he signed an executive order on religious freedom.
That executive order has resulted in a new policy, announced Thursday, to defend the rights of health care professionals to refuse to perform abortion-related services on religious or conscientious objection grounds.
Greeting marchers at a White House event Thursday night — and again in the Rose Garden Friday — Vice President Pence called Trump "the most pro-life president in American history."
The Rose Garden event was part of a deliberate strategy to raise the visibility of anti-abortion protesters, who have complained they haven't gotten as much attention as other Washington protests, including last year's Women's March — which specifically excluded women opposed to abortion.
“You know, the press never gives them the credit that they deserve. They’ll have three hundred, four hundred, five hundred, six hundred thousand people, you won’t even read about it,” Trump told ABC News in an interview last year.
(Gregory Korte writes for USA Today.)