President Trump became the first sitting president on Friday to deliver a live address to participants of the largest annual anti-abortion gathering, voicing his support for the pro-life movement and touting what his administration has done to cut back access to abortion.
“l want to thank every person here today and all across our country who works with such big hearts and tireless devotion to make sure parents have what they need to choose life,” the president said via satellite to hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall for the 45th March for Life.
“You’re living witnesses of this year’s March for Life theme, and that theme is: love saves lives,” he said.
Anti-abortion activists descend on Washington from across the country every year to protest the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, which affirmed a woman's constitutional right to abortion.
Previous Republican presidents, including both George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, addressed attendees of the annual march. But Friday marked the first time a sitting president had ever broadcast live remarks from the White House Rose Garden to those gathered just down Pennsylvania Ave.
“Roe v. Wade has resulted in some of the most permissive abortion laws anywhere in the world,” Trump said, noting that the U.S. is “one of only seven countries to allow elected late-term abortion.”
“It is wrong. It has to change,” he continued. “In my administration, we will always defend the very first right in the Declaration of Independence, and that is the right ot life.”
On the eve of his first anniversary as president, Trump took time to identify the various changes his administration has made to curb abortion access and federal funding for abortion. He mentioned his decision to reinstate the Mexico City policy, which prevents groups that promote abortion rights or perform abortions from accepting foreign aid, after it was suspended by his predecessor.
And he urged Senate Republicans to swiftly take up the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would outlaw abortion after 20 weeks of gestation. The bill passed the House last year.
“I call upon the Senate to pass this law and send it to my desk for signing,” Trump said.
Though this year’s March for Life comes amid the looming threat of a government shutdown, administration officials were in high spirits on Friday as they unveiled the new religious freedom division at the Department of Health and Human Services. The office will help protect doctors, nurses and medical workers who decline to perform abortion or provide certain treatments for transgender patients for religious reasons.
“On the national day of prayer, I signed a law to protect religious liberty,” Trump said. “Today, I’m announcing that we have just released a new proposal to protect conscience rights of doctors nurses, and medical professionals.”
The president continued, “We are protecting the sanctity of life and the family as the foundation of our society. But this movement can only succeed with the heart and the soul and the prayer of the people.”
“Thank you to the March for Life, special, special people. We are with you all the way,” he said.