Trump Explains Why He Joined ‘March for Life’ Rally: ‘Religious Liberty Is Under Siege’

By Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.
January 25, 2020Updated: January 26, 2020

President Donald Trump explained why he decided to join a pro-life rally in Washington, saying that he felt it was time and because “religious liberty is under siege.”

“Religious liberty is under siege. If you look at everything that the folks here stand for that we’re surrounded by, that’s under siege,” Trump told Raymond Arroyo of Fox News during an interview at the March for Life on Friday. The president added that he felt that his appearance would be good because it would “set a good tone.”

“I just felt it was a great time to do it,” he said, adding that the event has brought many people together.

Trump made a 13-minute address at the rally in support of the pro-life movement and the religious community, while becoming the first president to attend the event in person.

Trump speaks at a March for Life rally
President Donald Trump speaks at a March for Life rally on the National Mall in Washington on Jan. 24, 2020. Patrick Semansky/AP Photo

Presidents Ronald Reagan, in 1987, and George W. Bush, in 2008, addressed the March for Life rally over the phone. Trump delivered a speech over satellite from the White House’s Rose Garden in 2018 and sent attendees a video message in 2019. This time, however, was the first time a president spoke in person.

March for Life began in 1974 on the one-year anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, a Supreme Court decision that made access to abortion legal. One of the goals of the march was to rally until the decision was overturned.

During his speech, Trump touted the measures his administration had taken to protect the lives of unborn children, including reinstating the Mexico City Policy, which blocks foreign aid to non-governmental organizations that perform or promote abortion as a form of family planning, and issuing a reinterpretation of the Title X funding rules.

“From the first day in office, I’ve taken a historic action to support America’s families and to protect the unborn,” he said. “During my first week in office, I reinstated and expanded the Mexico City Policy, and we issued a landmark pro-life rule to govern the use of Title X taxpayer funding.”

In February last year, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a rule that “prohibits the use of Title X funds to perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning,” the department stated in a release. The rule also requires “clear financial and physical separation between Title X and non-Title X activities.”

As a result, Planned Parenthood, the country’s largest abortion provider, stated it will no longer draw Title X funds, forgoing an estimated $60 million in annual taxpayer funding.

He also said his administration was taking action to protect religious liberty as well, something he described was “important.”

“Religious liberty has been under attack all over the world, and, frankly, very strongly attacked in our nation. You see it better than anyone. But we are stopping it, and we’re taking care of doctors, nurses, teachers, and groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor. We are preserving faith-based adoption,” he said.

For example, in May 2019, HHS introduced a conscience rule that protected medical professionals and health care entities from being discriminated against if they refuse to cover for or perform medical services such as abortion, sterilization, or assisted suicide on religious or moral grounds. The rule was implemented as part of Trump’s vow to protect the fundamental rights of conscience and religious liberty.

The Trump administration has repeatedly supported the lives of unborn children. On Jan. 21, Trump signed a proclamation on National Sanctity of Human Life Day 2020 to reaffirm the administration’s commitment to protecting “the precious gift of life at every stage, from conception to natural death.”

Trump said in his proclamation that the number and rate of abortions have been declining in recent years across the nation, but more work needs to be done.

“I will continue to fight to protect the lives of the unborn,” he said. “As a nation, we must remain steadfastly dedicated to the profound truth that all life is a gift from God, who endows every person with immeasurable worth and potential.”

Petr Svab contributed to this report.