Trump campaign calls letter a 'recommitment' to the pro-life movement

Trump takes m4l stage President Donald Trump speaks at the 2020 March for Life. CNA file photo.

President Donald Trump released a letter Thursday touting pro-life accomplishments in his first term and commitments for a second term-but some of these commitments linger from 2016.

In the letter, released through the Pro-Life Voices for Trump coalition, Trump said he has "proudly governed as the most pro-life president in our nation's history," pointing to the confirmations of Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh as well as over 200 lower court judges, and actions including policies to prevent the use of taxpayer dollars for abortions overseas and stripping Planned Parenthood of Title X funds, and becoming the first sitting president to address the March for Life in person.  

The president pledged to continue to work towards "our transformation of the federal judiciary," signing pro-life bills-the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, and the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act-into law, and "fully defund the big abortion industry such as Planned Parenthood of our tax dollars."

However, during his 2016 campaign, in a similar letter to the pro-life movement, Trump made four key pro-life commitments: nominating "pro-life justices" to the Supreme Court, signing into law the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, defunding Planned Parenthood, and making the Hyde amendment permanent law.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, co-chair of the Pro-Life Voices for Trump coalition, said in an interview the campaign "re-upped" the letter "because when they did it initially it was in the context of grave doubts over whether he would be the pro-life president that he said that he would."

"And so this recommitment is within a totally different context, he's followed through-to the greatest extent possible-in every one of these areas," Dannenfelser said. "And it's just to show he's unwavering, he's unchanging."

Asked about the lingering commitments from 2016, Dannenfelser said, "There are some things that are in the legislative branch that have to be overcome without question."

"But he just wants to communicate his unwavering commitment to those principles and that not only has nothing changed, but things are so much better and we're so much closer than we were four years ago," she said. "So three things have to happen: We have to return the Senate, it has to be at least as pro-life as it is, and there has to be some crumbling in that grip that the most liberal wing has, so that we can get a few more votes for passage."
Dannenfelser highlighted the president adding the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act to the list of commitments.

"One of the reasons so many people are coming off the sidelines and getting engaged as they have not before is that issue that was raised so publicly first by Governor [Ralph] Northam and then second by the president," she said. "So it has become a priority of his." 
Ahead of the Republican National Convention, the Trump campaign released a list of bullet points outlining the president's second-term priorities. The issue of abortion was absent from that initial document, but a pledge to protect unborn life was later added.

"I'll just tell you I'm glad they got it right," Dannenfelser said when asked about the initial omission. "I have no idea how that slipped, but they did the right thing and fixed it."

Asked if the president would consider defunding Planned Parenthood through executive action if Congress is unwilling, Dannenfelser said, "there's a great openness to anything that is constitutional."

"I'm a hundred percent sure that anything that has a good shot, he's open to doing," she said. "It's just a tough one you know and I think there may need to be some more creative ways to make it happen."

Dannenfelser argued "the judges piece" is the priority of the pro-life movement because "everything after that in the list assumes that we've got a Court that isn't going to stop every single thing that we do in our pro-life activism."

Tom McClusky, president of March for Life Action, said in an interview that the new letter "a verification of a lot of conversations that were had with the administration."

"The first letter that he did, it was kind of a contract between two unknown quantities," McClusky said. "I don't know if he fully understood the pro-life movement, and the pro-life movement was wary of him as a candidate. But this letter, it's more of a contract between friends. He's done so much for the pro-life movement and we're happy to see he wants to continue that."

It is "unfortunate," McClusky said, that some of the initial commitments remain, because "even when Republicans controlled all three cogs of the legislative machine, there still just weren't enough votes in the Senate for Pain-Capable."

McClusky said he hopes the administration will pursue avenues like exclusion or debarment to defund Planned Parenthood through executive action.

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"If HHS were to do that, that would mean that Planned Parenthood would no longer be a partner to get Medicaid reimbursements," he said.

He added he would also like to see the president commit to banning human embryonic stem cell experimentation and change the IRS code, "which currently allows that abortion is health care, and what we'd like to see is the IRS change that designation."

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