US President Donald Trump addressed the country’s biggest annual anti-abortion rally yesterday as members of the Senate sat in judgment just blocks away at his impeachment trial.
“Unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House,” Trump told thousands of anti-abortion campaigners at the “March for Life” on the National Mall.
“When it comes to abortion,” the Republican president said, “Democrats have embraced the most radical and extreme positions.”
Trump, seeking to shore up the Christian evangelical support he’ll need for re-election in November, is the first president to address the annual anti-abortion event in person.
He made only a single reference to the impeachment trial going on just down the street that could see him removed from office for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
“They are coming after me because I am fighting for you, and we are fighting for those who have no voice,” he told the cheering crowd. “And we will win because we know how to win.”
While impeachment will forever stain his record, Trump is virtually assured of acquittal by the Republican-held Senate – and is already looking past the trial to the re-election fight that awaits.
Before entering politics Trump defended abortion rights, but he has increasingly aligned himself with the anti-abortion movement as he works to firm up his electoral base – none more so than the white evangelicals who backed him overwhelmingly in 2016.
“President Trump has governed as the most pro-life president in history,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the head of the anti-abortion campaign group Susan B Anthony List.
The “March for Life”, which Trump has addressed by video message the last two years, is organised annually on or near the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Roe v Wade case which legalised the procedure nationwide on January 22, 1973.
Under Trump’s presidency, abortion rights activists fear that landmark ruling is now under threat.
“Since day one, this administration has carried out a full-out assault on our health and our rights,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, the acting president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which supports women’s right to abortion.
Since taking office in 2017, Trump has strengthened the Supreme Court’s 5-4 conservative majority, naming two justices who oppose abortion – Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh – and galvanising abortion opponents.
Conservative-leaning Chief Justice John Roberts is seen as the potential swing vote if the constitutionality of abortion eventually comes before the court.
Around two-thirds of Americans say abortion should be legal, polls suggest.
However, while Roe v Wade remains the law of the land, numerous states have taken measures to limit access to the procedure.
The first big Supreme Court test of that anti-abortion push will come in March, when the court examines a Louisiana law whose restrictions on abortion are similar to a Texas law struck down nearly four years ago.
As it does each year, the march began at the National Mall and ended at the Supreme Court near the Capitol building, where senators are sitting as jurors in Trump’s impeachment trial.
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