Signaling a renewed commitment to restricting abortion in Donald Trump’s administration, Vice-President Mike Pence and presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway spoke at the March for Life in Washington, D.C. Friday. Their appearance marked the first time White House officials had attended the long-running anti-abortion march.
Neither a president nor vice-president had previously attended the march since its start 43 years ago, though former President Ronald Reagan addressed marchers in a video in 1988, as did former President George W. Bush in 2008.
Activists have marched in protest in Washington since 1974, since the Supreme Court ruled abortion legal in Roe v. Wade the previous year.
Conway, one of Trump’s most visible aides who has long opposed abortion, took the stage to shouts of "Kellyanne" and drew extended cheers when she cited her Catholic faith.
"This is a new day, a new dawn for life," Conway said, noting she had participated in the march long before ascending to her position in the White House. "It is no coincidence that the first right cited in the Declaration of Independence is the right to life. It is a right. It is not a privilege. It is not a choice. It is God given."
Conway vowed that the new administration would "endeavor forward with you."
"Look at a sonogram," she also said, saying that scientific advances proved her point that life starts at conception. "Meet a thriving toddler who was born at 24 weeks and who with proper medical intervention goes on to have a long and healthy life."
Trump demonstrated his opposition to abortion in one of his earliest actions as president, signing an executive order to prohibit federal funds from going to foreign non-governmental organizations who provide or promote abortions.
Pence, attending with his wife Karen, cited Trump’s reinstatement of that policy when he addressed the crowd. He also referenced the Roe v. Wade decision and told marchers that the outlook was more promising now than it had been since the landmark case.
"Today, three generations hence, because of all of you and the many thousands who stand with us all across the nation, life is winning again in America," he said. "That is evident in the election of pro-life majorities in the Congress of the United States of America. But it is no more evident in any way than in the historic election of a president who stands for a stronger America, a more prosperous America, and a president who stands for the right to life."
Pence also promised action from the administration as early as next week, which is when Trump plans to nominate a Supreme Court justice.
"We’re in the promise-keeping business," he said, adding that the nominee would live up to predecessor Antonin Scalia’s legacy of opposing a right to abortion.
Conway had said early on she would attend the march, and Pence announced he would join her Thursday night, after meeting with anti-abortion leaders that evening.