If there is any tension between religious Americans and President Donald Trump, it wasn’t evident at Friday’s pro-life March for Life.
The march comes weeks after an op-ed in Christianity Today, which called for Trump’s removal from office, raised questions about whether the president’s strong evangelical support is eroding. But crowds at the rally roared when he came on stage, as the first president to address the march in person. They also cheered when he declared himself the “most pro-life president in American history.”
“We are so blessed to finally have a president who has the guts to do things like this—for us, this is huge,” Howie, a 63-year-old from Pennsylvania, said.
The large majority of people at the event had come in large church groups or were students from religious schools, and Trump catered to his audience accordingly—calling a child in a womb a “glimpse” into the “majesty of God’s creation,” and stating that all human life was “made in the holy image of almighty God.”
“Unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House, and as the Bible tells us: each person is wonderfully made,” he said.
In a 1999 Meet the Press interview, Trump said he was “very pro-choice” despite him “hate[ing] the concept of abortion.” He has since swung to the other side of the issue, mentioning his pro-life beliefs in political speeches and campaign rallies.
The religious rhetoric from the president resonated with many, including Robin Jenkins—a Whitepost, Virginia woman who came with her church.
“It is murder, it’s not God’s will,” Jenkins said, referring to abortion. “I believe the Bible is right and the whole nation needs to turn back to what God says is right.”
Trump also touted his actions to push forward the pro-life agenda while in office—like reinstating the Mexico City Policy (also called the global gag rule, which cuts off funding for NGOs that provide abortion counseling or referrals), cutting off federal funding to organizations who provide abortion services in many cases, and filling up vacant judicial seats with anti-abortion judges.
“To uphold our founding documents, we have confirmed 187 federal judges who apply the Constitution as written,” Trump said to a burst of loud cheers.
As Trump boasted about the number of judges he put on the bench, Howie fist-bumped one of his friends.
“When he gets re-elected and he appoints one more conservative judge, the Supreme Court will be locked up for a long, long time and that will allow for sanctity of human life and Roe v. Wade hopefully to be overturned—so that’s what we’re hoping and praying for,” Howie said, adding that filling up the courts was one of the “major” reasons he would be supporting Trump in 2020. “That will set the tone for years and years and years to come.”
Savannah, a 23-year-old from Washington state, said the “ultimate goal” of the movement was to reverse Roe v. Wade. She didn’t describe herself as pro-life for religious reasons and denied being a fervent Trump supporter, but said she planned on voting for him in 2020.
“I didn’t [vote for Trump] last year. I would prefer to vote third-party but it’s difficult. I’m technically a libertarian, so I would love to vote for a libertarian but a lot of libertarians are pro-choice—so I do vote pro-life ultimately,” she said.
The March for Life took a pro-women tone this year, with promotional videos and speakers on the stage insisting that abortion was an anti-women belief. Trump praised mothers for being “heroes” and said the “devotion” and leadership of women “uplifts the entire nation.”
Savannah admitted that Trump said “wacky” things about women in the past, like his “grab ‘em by the pussy” comment, but chalked it up to Trump not being “perfect” or having a politician’s polish.
“He doesn’t always say the correct things, it is what it is. But I care more about someone’s actions and what they do rather than what they say,” she said.
Jenkins’ friend, 51-year-old Kim Houzer, also said she didn’t vote for Trump in 2016 but would be supporting him in 2020 for the pro-life movement.
“I look at what his actions are. What his personal beliefs are, I don’t know, but what he does is what matters to me,” she said. “I’m not a personal fan of his behavior but I’m an issues voter, and there’s no issue that’s more important to me than pro-life.”