Despite having publicly stated he’s fine with abortion in years prior to becoming President, calling himself “very pro-choice,” Donald Trump has turned 180 degrees in recent years. Since 2016, he’s entered the running for most outspoken anti-choice president in history, feeding the fire of the anti-abortion movement. On Friday, in a presidential first, President Trump will not only attend March for Life — he will headline the massive anti-abortion rally.
Each year, thousands of anti-abortion groups march in Washington, D.C. in the March for Life. The massive rally originated in 1973 following the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in America.
Prominent figures have attended in past years — including Vice President Mike Pence in 2017 — and Republican presidents like Ronald Reagan and the Bushes have addressed the rally remotely or through prepared statements. In 2018, Trump made his first large-scale declaration of support for anti-abortion lobbyists when he gave the first-ever presidential live video speech addressing the rally crowd.
Now, Trump is taking that support a step further by headlining the march — meaning he’s set to give a speech and set the tone for the event, at the center of it all. Historically, anti-abortion extremists like Ben Shapiro and Alveda King who spoke at March for Life made an obvious effort to vilify abortion and pro-choice people. Given the state of abortion rights in America at this moment, with Roe v. Wade being severely threatened, Trump’s attendance at the March for Life signals serious national support for the anti-abortion movement.
Which begs the obvious question: what is the real purpose behind Trump headlining the rally? While the anti-abortion crowd is full of people from all backgrounds, right-wing Christians and evangelicals make up a large portion of anti-choicers. With candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren picking up steam on the left ahead of primaries, it’s more than possible the Trump campaign is nervous about competition. This is evidenced by, perhaps, the entire Ukraine scandal that's called for Trump's impeachment.
Although Trump’s right-wing base was strong enough to secure him the vote in 2016, a presidential candidate can never be too careful about securing their base and keeping them happy. Polls have even shown that half of voters have already decided against voting for Trump in 2020. Whether that will play out or not, that idea alone is enough to scare the Trump campaign into making a large statement. So, is it possible that Trump is attending the March for Life as a tactic to rally evangelical votes and keep on their good side? Fully and completely.
This isn’t new for Trump, who has gotten cozy with prominent extremist anti-abortion groups like the Susan B. Anthony List, and who has frequently praised “the evangelicals.” As a ploy to win the hearts and minds of anti-abortion radicals, it certainly seems to be working. The president of the Susan B. Anthony List, Marjorie Dannenfelser, called Trump's appearance at the march "a moment of celebration for the pro-life movement." She also stated that while previously everyone doubted where he stood on abortion, Trump’s appearance at the rally assuages anti-choice voters that they can trust him and reminds them of what’s “at stake” in the coming election.
After three years of his administration consistently working to restrict abortion rights, he needs voters to know they can trust him to continue on that trajectory — particularly evangelical voters, who support extreme right-wing politics at a higher rate than nearly any other religious group in the United States. Trump knows exactly what the anti-choice crowd, and what evangelicals want to hear about abortion. That crowd wants to know not only does he support it but that his current and future plans include using the powers that be in his administration to put an end to it.
In just a few weeks, the Supreme Court will take up its first major abortion case since Trump-confirmed nominees Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, who are both anti-abortion, joined the court. Now, knowing that Roe could be overturned, the evangelical anti-abortion monopolies know the next president might have the opportunity to name another justice to the court.