Trump is set to attend Friday's anti-abortion rights March for Life as the Senate considers whether to expel him from office for high crimes and misdemeanors.
Donald Trump on Friday is set to become the first president in history to attend the annual anti-abortion rights March for Life in person. Although the annual Washington, D.C., event seeks to obliterate the reproductive rights of women and gender minorities, the event's theme for 2020 is "Pro-Life is Pro-Woman."
Wednesday marked the 47th anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that held that the right to choose whether to have an abortion is protected by the Constitution. The vast majority of Americans — 77% — oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, according to a recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.
But since 1974, abortion-rights opponents have gathered annually to protest what they call "legalized abortion on demand."
Trump's administration sent an email to all Health and Human Services staff on Thursday, talking up the rally as "the largest annual human rights demonstration in the world."
Previous presidents including Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush called in to the annual marches by phone to voice their support. Trump spoke to the rally in 2018 by satellite feed. But until Friday, none appeared in person for the event, which has previously featured violent extremists and far-right activists.
In 2000, Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry addressed the rally. Terry has praised the murder of doctors who perform abortions, pushed to ban all birth control as "human pesticide," and advocated for strict Biblical law.
Last year, the event featured far-right activist Ben Shapiro. Shapiro, who has falsely claimed that more than 800 million Muslims are radical extremists and lost sponsors for his radio show after telling attendees that "no pro-life person would kill baby Hitler" because "baby Hitler was a baby." Last January, Shapiro tweeted that if you support abortion rights "you're not a feminist. You're barely deserve the title human being."
Speakers in this year's rally include an array of far-right activists.
One is House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, who bragged last May that he is "proud" to come from Louisiana, where as a state legislator he backed a ban on all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest. Scalise reportedly once claimed to be "like David Duke without the baggage" and acknowledged in 2014 that he had spoken at a David Duke-linked white supremacist gathering during his tenure in the state Legislature. He has since apologized and denounced the former KKK leader.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) is also set to speak. He caused a national stir in 2011 when he tried to narrow the definition of rape in the Hyde Amendment's rape and incest exception. (The Hyde Amendment blocks federal funding for abortions for lower income Americans, except in rare cases.) Under his proposed "No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act," the exception would only have applied in cases of what he described as "forcible rape," excluding victims who are drugged, unconscious, or are unable to fight their attacker.
Another scheduled speaker is evangelist Jim Daly, the head of Focus on the Family, who has a long record of anti-LGBTQ activism. In 2012, he claimed that Satan was behind the marriage equality movement because "he hates marriage because it's a reflection of God's image."
In 2011, he denounced Lady Gaga and her hit song "Born this Way."
"That a song advocating for a genetic determinative for homosexuality sits atop the charts is disconcerting, but not entirely shocking," he lamented.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, head of Susan B. Anthony List, is also set to speak. She inaccurately claimed in 2012 that Barack Obama's outreach to women voters and support for reproductive freedom were "exactly what the early suffragists warned against: the exploitation of women." In 2017, she urged Congress adopt child tax credits for "unborn" children.
Though she once denounced Trump, Dannenfelser and her group are now spending millions in dark money to reelect him in 2020.
"We didn’t need any more confirmation that the sitting president of the United States is dead-set on doing all he can to end access to safe, legal abortion in this country," said Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, in a statement.
“In the midst of this pageantry, it’s important people remember that abortion is normal. Abortion is health care. Nearly one in four women will have an abortion in her lifetime, and the vast majority of people in this country want abortion to remain legal and accessible. People who have an abortion deserve compassion and to have access to the best health care available — not to be stigmatized and villainized by the president of the United States."
Beyond his opposition to abortion rights, Trump's record can hardly be described as "pro-woman." He has appointed fewer women than recent presidents to administration posts. He has also been accused of sexual assault or predation by at least 41 women since a video was released showing him bragging that he likes to grab women "by the pussy" and kiss them without permission.
As the rally takes place on the National Mall, the U.S. Senate is set to continue considering the case against Donald Trump in its impeachment trial. He has been impeached by the House of Representatives for alleged obstruction and abuse of power.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.