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Abortion-Rights Opponents Energized By New Administration


Some past Republican presidents have phoned in their support for an annual anti-abortion protest in Washington, D.C. This year, President Trump sent his vice president, Mike Pence.


VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: On behalf of President Donald Trump...


PENCE: ...My wife, Karen, our daughter, Charlotte, I'd like to welcome you all to Washington, D.C., for the 44th annual March for Life.

SIMON: The vice president is the highest-ranking official to ever appear at the rally in person. As NPR's Sarah McCammon reports, abortion opponents at yesterday's gathering feel energized by a new administration.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: The annual rally known as the March for Life is definitely Vice President Mike Pence's kind of crowd.


PENCE: President Trump actually asked me to be here with you today.


PENCE: He asked me to thank you for your support.

MCCAMMON: As the former governor of Indiana, Pence gained popularity among social conservatives for his plainspoken style and hard-line stances against abortion and same-sex marriage. He helped Trump shore up his support with the Republican base, many of whom were worried about Trump's temperament and history of describing himself as very pro-choice. In the end, Trump and Pence won more than 80 percent of white evangelical voters. Pence promised the crowd that Trump's victory will prove to be a victory for them.


PENCE: That's why this administration will work with the Congress to end taxpayer funding of abortion and abortion providers.


PENCE: And we will devote those resources to health care services for women across America.

MCCAMMON: Under current law, federal funding for abortions is already illegal in most cases, but Planned Parenthood does receive about half a billion dollars in federal funds each year to provide services like health exams and contraceptives to low-income women. Iowa Senator Joni Ernst told the marchers she's preparing to introduce a pair of bills aimed at diverting family planning funds away from the organization.


JONI ERNST: Folks, we're going to stop it.


MCCAMMON: Abortion-rights opponents are hoping that Trump and the Republican Congress will move their agenda forward.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Unintelligible) Together, OK?

MCCAMMON: At the march, participants filled a section of the National Mall near the Washington Monument and poured onto nearby streets. Among them was Rose Romero, an attorney from Fort Worth, Texas, who saw Pence's appearance as a positive sign.

ROSE ROMERO: It took 44 years - right? - for someone in his position in government, the vice president of the United States, to come and celebrate life and appreciate life. That is amazing to me.

MCCAMMON: Attending the march for roughly the 10th time was Richard MacDonald from New Jersey. For him, Pence was a reassuring presence.

RICHARD MACDONALD: To be honest, Trump was not my No. 1 choice. I do like Pence's pro-life stance and, you know, he seems a more kind of levelheaded kind of guy. But with Trump, I mean, he's got the right idea. We've got to put our country first, not just on the pro-life issue but with everything. We've got to put - get jobs back into the country, and I think it's the right approach.

MCCAMMON: Already Trump has signed a presidential memorandum blocking U.S. funding to groups that provide or, quote, "promote" abortion abroad. He's promised to announce a Supreme Court nominee next week - a move activists on both sides of the abortion debate will be watching closely. Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.