Mike Pence First Sitting VP to Address DC’s March for Life

January 27, 2017 Updated: January 27, 2017

WASHINGTON—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.

Michelle Doyle, left, joins the March for Life 2016 rally, commemorating the anniversary of 1973 "Roe v. Wade" U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in Washington on Jan. 22, 2016. The annual rally will be held Friday on the National Mall in the nation's capital on Jan. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
Michelle Doyle, left, joins the March for Life 2016 rally, commemorating the anniversary of 1973 “Roe v. Wade” U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in Washington on Jan. 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

It was the third major event in Washington this week, though there was not yet an estimate of the crowd size.

“You know, the press never gives them the credit that they deserve,” Trump told Republicans gathered in Philadelphia. “They’ll have 300, 400, 500, 600 thousand people. You won’t even read about it. When other people show up, you read big-time about it. Right? So, it’s not fair, but nothing fair about the media.”

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.

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.

A pro-life protester holds a sign in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on a day where two important decisions on immigration and affirmative action were handed down by the court in Washington, DC, on June 23, 2016. (Allison Shelley/Getty Images)
A pro-life protester holds a sign in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on a day where two important decisions on immigration and affirmative action were handed down by the court in Washington, DC, on June 23, 2016. (Allison Shelley/Getty Images)

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.