Buoyed by an anti-choice Trump-Pence administration, abortion opponents gathered in Washington, D.C. on Friday knowing they have allies in the White House to advance an agenda aimed at restricting women's healthcare and reproductive rights.
For the first time in history, the sitting Vice President of the United States addressed the so-called March for Life in person. "Life is winning in America," former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, whom Vox describes as "one of the most actively anti-abortion Republican politicians in the U.S. today," told the cheering crowd.
He reminded the audience that President Donald Trump—who tweeted his support and was expected to send remarks to the rally—plans to announce his Supreme Court nominee next week. Top Trump aide Kellyanne Conway also spoke at the annual event; earlier in the day she told CBS that the president will "appoint pro-life justices to the U.S. Supreme Court."
The symbolism of two high-ranking members of the administration appearing at the march "is hard to overlook," the New York Times wrote Thursday. So too was Trump's reinstatement on Monday of the so-called Global Gag Rule, a move many credited to Pence's influence. And the GOP-majority House also voted this week in favor of a bill that opponents called "classic anti-choice overreach."
"I think that pro-lifers feel like maybe we have a voice at the federal level—there's that hope that we will have that voice," Abby Johnson, founder of the anti-abortion group And Then There Were None, told USA Today.
Meanwhile, since Trump's election, emboldened Republican-led state legislatures have also escalated their anti-choice campaigns, promulgating laws "grounded in 'alternative facts' about women's supposed inability to make thoughtful decisions about their own bodies and lives," as National Partnership for Women and Families vice president Sarah Lipton-Lubet wrote Friday.
Most recently, on Thursday, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a bill banning the most common abortion procedure employed in the second trimester of a pregnancy—a move the Center for Reproductive Rights decried as "simply shameful."
Women's health advocates knew theirs would be an uphill battle under President Trump. And, energized by last weekend's Women's March on Washington, they vowed on Friday not to let the country move backwards when it comes to reproductive rights.
One group was doing so by highlighting how the Trump-Pence administration's views on abortion are out-of-step with the majority of Americans.
"We know that Donald Trump cares about his approval ratings and doesn't care about facts," said Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of online women's advocacy group UltraViolet. "So here is a fact he, and those who will be marching today, will especially hate—abortion access is more popular than Donald Trump."
The group took out a full-page ad to this effect in the free daily paper Washington Post Express, and flew a plane over the anti-abortion rally dragging a banner with the same message.
"Women will never stop standing together to ensure that access to constitutionally-protected reproductive health services is not taken away," Thomas declared. "A woman's decision about her body is her choice; not our president's nor our politicians. Our campaign will drive home this point today and every day."
Meanwhile, pro-choice groups and activists tweeted under the hashtag #MarchofLies: