Before he spoke, Trump greeted leaders on the stage while Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." played. Before he had taken the stage, songs from the Rolling Stones and Tina Turner played, as well as The Animals' 1964 "House of the Rising Sun," had played for the crowd. The songs are standard fare at Trump campaign events.
The president was welcomed enthusiastically by March for Life president Jeanne Mancini.
Describing the March for Life as a "pro-life and pro-woman" event, and the "largest human rights demonstration in the entire world," Mancini told Trump that "your presence here today makes a very powerful statement."
"You are leader of the free world and you stand for life. Thank you for being here. Thank you for everything you've done for life. And thank you for everything you will be doing for life in the years ahead," Mancini said, apparently in reference to the president's upcoming election.
The welcome marked a stark contrast to a March 2016 statement from Mancini, who responded to remarks from Trump calling for the imprisonment of women who undergo abortions as "completely out of touch with the pro-life movement and even more with women who have chosen such a sad thing as abortion."
"Being pro-life means wanting what is best for the mother and the baby. Women who choose abortion often do so in desperation and then deeply regret such a decision. No pro-lifer would ever want to punish a woman who has chosen abortion," Mancini added in 2016.
But Trump has made efforts since his 2016 election to respond to the policy proposals of pro-life leaders, administration officials say.
On Friday, he touted some of those efforts, mentioning his expansion of the Mexico City policy that bars federal funding from supporting abortions in foreign countries, along with his 187 appointments to the federal bench, among them two justices of the Supreme Court. The president also mentioned that new regulations on Title X policies block abortion providers from some federal funds.
Trump said that his administration is concerned about protecting religious liberty, and is "taking care of doctors, teachers, nurses, and groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor."
"Unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House," the president said, to applause from the crowd.
Trump has faced fierce criticism from the U.S. bishops' conference and other faith leaders for his immigration, social welfare, and foreign aid policies, and did not make mention of those issues during his speech. His rhetoric and policies on this issues have been criticized by Catholic leaders as inimical to respect for human dignity. Nor did the president mention his recent drone strike against Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, which has also drawn criticism from faith leaders who have raised concerns about the possibility that the U.S. could enter another war in the Middle East.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
The president also did not mention directly his reelection, but he did tell the crowd that "Democrats have embraced the most radical and extreme positions taken and seen in this country for years and decades, and you can even say, for centuries. Nearly every top Democrat in Congress now supports taxpayer-funded abortions all the way up until the moment of birth."
Trump mentioned the 2019 passage of New York state's Reproductive Health Act, which ushered in a wave of legislation in several states aimed at expanding legal protection for abortion. He also mentioned Virginia's Governor Ralph Northam, who in 2019 made public comments that seemed to support allowing a child who survived a botched abortion to die without medical treatment.
The president did not mention Louisiana state Rep. Katrina Jackson, a pro-life Democrat scheduled to speak at the March for Life shortly after Trump. Jackson sponsored a Louisiana law requiring doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within a 30-mile radius. That law, signed by a Democratic governor and now under judicial review at the Supreme Court, is expected to pose a challenge to the binding precedent of Roe v. Wade.
Trump is currently subject to impeachment proceedings in the U.S. Senate, which he did not mention directly in his speech. He did, however, aim to connect his political challenges to his pro-life advocacy.
"Sadly the far left is actively working to erase our God-given rights, shut down faith-based charities, ban religious believers from the public square, and silence Americans who believe in the sanctity of life," Trump told the crowd.
"They are coming after me, because I am fighting for you, and we are fighting for those who have no voice, and we will win, because we know how to win."