By Evan Wilt
(WNS)–For the 44th year in a row, thousands flooded the nation’s capital to show support for the unborn, and for the first time in a long time, the pro-life movement’s priorities appear to mirror those of the nation’s leaders.
“Life is winning again in America,” Vice President Mike Pence told the crowd of pro-lifers gathered on the National Mall. “Compassion is overcoming convenience, and hope is defeating despair.”
Pence is the highest-ranking elected official to address the annual March for Life, and his appearance represents the first time a sitting vice president has attended in person. His speech helped drive a renewed sense of optimism at this year’s event. Advocates believe the newly elected Republican-controlled Congress and Trump administration will make significant progress for the pro-life movement.
Today marked the one-week anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. This morning, before Pence addressed the crowd, Trump broadcast his support on Twitter.
“The #MarchForLife is so important. To all of you marching—you have my full support!” Trump tweeted.
For many in the pro-life movement, attending the March for Life is nothing new, but outspoken support from the Trump administration prompted many to attend for the first time.
Greg Ingle traveled from Detroit and arrived at the National Mall before sunrise to be first in line. Wearing his red “Make America Great Again” cap, Ingle and his friend John Vanbear anchored a spot front and center.
“I’ve never experienced an atmosphere like this before,” Vanbear told me.
Gary Crews and his wife of 37 years, Patty, came from Orlando, Fla., to attend the march for the first time. Gary Crews told me he’s been pro-life for more than 40 years, but he has never been more optimistic for the movement. He said more and more Americans realize the importance of standing up for life. Crews attributed the undercover videos released by David Daleiden’s Center for Medical Progress in 2015 for exposing the bleak reality of the abortion industry. As for Pence’s appearance at the march?
“The whipped cream on top of the sundae,” Crews said.
Daleiden agreed, calling today’s march historic.
“This is the first March for Life I’ve ever been to at a time when we have both a pro-life Congress and a pro-life administration in the White House—that’s just a total game changer,” Daleiden told me. “Today we’re coming full circle because none of us would be here talking about defunding Planned Parenthood if Vice President Pence had not stood up and made that an issue more than 10 years ago.”
While serving in Congress, Pence began introducing bills to defund Planned Parenthood in 2007 and continued to do so through 2011, when his amendment to defund the abortion giant gained some traction and almost led to a government shutdown.
Many attendees today carried “Defund Planned Parenthood” signs. Every year, America’s largest abortion provider rakes in more than $500 million federal dollars. Since 1973, pro-lifers estimate the organization is responsible for more than 7 million abortions nationwide.
Before today’s march, Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., penned a letter to Trump outlining the priorities of pro-life Americans. Nearly 150 members of Congress co-signed the letter, which asked the White House to commit to appointing pro-life justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, enacting a late-term abortion ban, defunding Planned Parenthood, and making the Hyde Amendment permanent law.
For lawmakers, 2017 is fertile ground for advancing each part of that agenda.
“This march is different because we’re not talking about what we hope to do some day, we’re talking about what is already happening,” Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., told me.
Lankford pointed to Trump’s executive order on Monday to reinstate the Mexico City Policy, which blocks foreign aid dollars from going to abortion providers. Lankford and other likeminded lawmakers in the Senate are not talking about a hope to defund Planned Parenthood anymore, they’re talking about the logistics of making that a reality, he said.
Before Pence took the stage Friday afternoon, presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway warmed up the crowd. She called today a new dawn for life.
Last week, more than half a million people came to Washington to protest Trump’s inauguration and advocate for abortion at the Women’s March on Washington. This year’s March for Life didn’t match that turnout, but the event’s organizers said that shouldn’t matter.
“The only number I care about and the number all of us here care about is 58 million,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, referencing the estimated number of abortions since Roe v. Wade. “Pro-life is pro-woman. That voice might have been shut out last week, but pro-life is pro-woman.”