Blocks From His Impeachment Trial, Trump Tells Extreme Abortion Foes He Has Their Back

They’re not sure he’s one of them. But they know he needs them.

Supporters cheer while President Donald Trump addresses the annual March for Life rally on the National Mall on Friday.Evan Vucci/AP

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While Democrats made their case to the Senate that President Donald Trump had betrayed the Constitution and national security in the interest of his own political gain, Trump was a few blocks away, declaring his undying loyalty to a fringe group critical to his reelection.

“The unborn have never had a stronger protector in the White House,” proclaimed Trump to a cheering crowd on the National Mall for the annual March for Life. It was the first time in the march’s 47 years that a sitting president addressed the abortion foes, whom past Republican presidents have considered too militant and extreme for an audience. But Trump, besieged by impeachment and in the fight for his political life, is relying on them more than most presidents. 

Seth Evangola, who took the bus 11 hours from New Hampshire to attend his 10th March for Life, said he thought Trump was there in large part because he needed the marchers’ support. “I’m not sold that he fully understands the pro-life movement,” said Evangola, although he added that Trump “represents us well.”

“Trump is certainly more aligned with the pro-life movement than other president because he has to be,” says Mary Ziegler, a Florida State University law professor who studies the legal history of abortion. 

The March for Life Education and Defense Fund, the nonprofit that organizes the march, has historically taken an absolutist stand on abortion that has made the event unpalatable to even anti-abortion politicians. It has argued that abortion bans should not contain exemptions for rape and incest, and in 2015, it claimed that birth control in all forms constitutes abortion.

Trump, a serial divorcer and admitted assaulter of women, hardly fits the typical mold of a Christian protector of sexual purity, but that didn’t deter abortion opponents who traveled long distances to show their support for the president. Natalie Mallinack, 26, who traveled from Ohio by herself to attend the March for Life, told me she thinks Trump’s appearance at the march reflects his belief in the anti-abortion cause but also the movement’s growing strength. “It means that this issue has persisted,” she said.

There was plenty of room to spare at the March for Life.

Jessica Washington / Mother Jones

Arguably Trump’s biggest contribution to the anti-abortion cause has been his appointment of lifetime judges, particularly Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, who could lead the court to overturn or chip away at Roe v. Wade. Not everyone at the march supports Trump—but they do appreciate the mark he’s left on the judicial system. Will Campbell, who traveled to DC from Ohio, said that he will not be supporting Trump in 2020 but is pleased with the attention Trump is bringing to the march and with his appointment of conservative judges who can challenge Roe.

Some marchers, including Evangola, told me they won’t be sold on Trump’s judicial appointees until they start delivering pro-life decisions. Dana Seisler, another marcher, who attended with her children, said that although she was excited about Trump’s conservative Supreme Court appointments, she doubted Roe v. Wade would actually be overturned. 

For now, the marchers, and the country, are waiting to see what the justices do. But the president has given them a new sense of momentum. And that might be all he needs to lock down their support in November.

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Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

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Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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