VICTORY LAP

Mike Pence at March for Life: Bye, Planned Parenthood!

The Vice President promised a triumphant anti-abortion crowd that he’d defund abortion providers (read: Planned Parenthood) and give money to ‘women’s healthcare’ (read: controversial pregnancy crisis centers).

Yuri Gripas / Reuters

Today, before a massive crowd at this year’s March for Life in Washington, Vice President Mike Pence delivered a keynote address befitting a coach who had just won a Super Bowl.

“Life is winning again in America,” said the Vice President to thunderous cheers and adolescent screams from the crowd.

Thousands of would-be attendees were still waiting in security lines outside of the rally’s perimeter, victims of the current enthusiasm for their cause and of organizers who underestimated just how many people would show up. The media tent stopped admitting people half an hour before the stated cutoff time of 11:45. The streets running parallel to the rally’s location were bumper-to-bumper with media trucks. Reporters were everywhere. Earlier this week, President Trump complained that nobody covered the March for Life. For an event nobody is covering, it was pretty crowded. News choppers thumped overhead.

Pence, flanked by his wife and children, continued, “That is evident in the election of pro-life majorities, in the Congress of the United States of America. But it is no more evident in any way than in the historic election of a president who stands for a stronger America, a more prosperous America, and a president who proudly stands for the right to life, President Donald Trump!”

“Mike! My man!” yelled a teen boy with the logo of a parochial school embroidered in the brim of his winter cap.

“This administration will work with the Congress to end taxpayer funding of abortion and abortion providers,” Pence promised, to a cheer almost as big as the one that greeted him when he took the stage. “And we will devote those resources to healthcare services for women across America. This week, President Donald Trump will announce a Supreme Court nominee who will uphold the God-given liberties enshrined in our constitution.”

“Life is winning in America,” he repeated, Reagan-esquely. The crowd cheered even bigger this time.

Make no mistake: today’s was a Pence crowd, only excited about President Trump inasmuch as Vice President Pence was. The Vice President was loose, relaxed, authoritative, and victorious, the homecoming king of the pro-life movement. On this bright, breezy January afternoon, Pence described to the sympathetic crowd an America that full of promise and love, a jarring contrast to the dreary, angry speech his boss delivered at last week’s inauguration. At one point, the VP described Trump as “optimistic”—a confusing way to describe the current state of affairs in this country, when the president had railed about “American carnage.”

“As it is written, let your gentleness be evident to all,” Pence continued. “Let this movement be known for love, not anger. Let this be known for compassion, not confrontation. There is nothing stronger than gentleness. I believe we will continue to win the hearts and minds of a rising generation.”

For proponents of choice, Pence’s words probably sounded anything but sunny. His promise to defund “abortion providers” and redirect funds to places that provide women’s health is a barely dog-whistled pledge to defund Planned Parenthood and redirect those funds to crisis pregnancy centers, organizations that have come under fire in the past for misleading women as to what their healthcare options are. Pence’s promise that Trump would appoint a pro-life judge to the Supreme Court should be worrying to a person who is concerned about abortion rights.

Reception for Pence’s opening act, Kellyanne Conway, was less enthusiastic, probably because so many people weren’t close enough to the speakers to hear her. “Science and medicine have joined religious equality in causing many Americans to rethink how fragile and how triumphant this truly is,” Conway said. “Look at a sonogram, meet a thriving toddler who was born at 24 weeks and who, with proper medical intervention, goes on to have a long healthy life.”

The crowd erupted.

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Meanwhile, on Saturday, scientists around the country will march against what they say are the Trump administration’s anti-science policies and actions.