'Life is winning again in America,' vice president tells March for Life

IMAGE: CNS photo/Yuri Gripas, Reuters

By Kurt Jensen and Julie Asher

leaders of the pro-life movement are used to having the ear of the president,
as they had with Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

During their respective
administrations, they addressed the March for Life via telephone, but this year
the event marking the Roe v. Wade anniversary had the highest-ranking
government official ever to address the crowd in person.

“Life is winning again in
America, and today is a celebration of that progress,” the official, Vice
President Mike Pence, told the March for Life rally on the National Mall Jan.

“More than 240 years
ago, our founders declared these truths to be self-evident — that we are, all
of us, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights and that among
these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he said.
“Forty-four years ago, our Supreme Court turned away from the first of
these timeless ideals, but today, generations hence — because of all of you
and the many thousands who stand with us in marches all across the nation — life
is winning again in America.”

Pence said President
Donald Trump had asked him to address the rally, which took place under a sunny
sky with temperatures in the 40s. “He asked me to thank you for your
support, for your stand for life and your compassion for the women and children
of America.”

Other speakers included:
New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life
committee; Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager and now special adviser
to the president; Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; and Reps. Mia Love, R-Utah, and
Chris Smith, R-New Jersey.

Early that morning, Archbishop Christophe Pierre,
apostolic nuncio to the United States, conveyed a message from Pope Francis to
the March for Life, saying the pontiff was “profoundly grateful for this
impressive testimony to the sacredness of every human life.”

“As he has made clear, so great is the value of human life and so inalienable the right to life of an innocent child growing in a mother’s womb that no alleged right can justify a decision to terminate this life,” the nuncio said. 

Pope Francis “trusts that this event, in which so many American citizens speak out on behalf of the most defenseless of our bothers and sisters, will contribute to a mobilization of consciences in defense of the right to life and effective measures to ensure its adequate legal protection,” Archbishop Christopher said.

The evening before the
march, Pence also hosted organizers at the Executive Office Building next to
the White House. As a member of Congress, he had addressed the March for Life
in 2002, 2003 and 2007.

“Our president is a
man with broad shoulders, a big heart,” Pence said at the rally. To loud
cheers, he added, “His vision, his energy, his optimism are boundless, and
I know he will make America great again.”

He pointed to Trump’s
Jan. 23 executive action reinstating what’s called the Mexico City Policy,
which bans tax dollars from funding groups that promote or perform abortion in
other countries. He said the administration would work with Congress to stop
taxpayer funding of abortion “and devote those resources to health care
services for women across America.”

On Jan. 24, the House
passed the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, making the 41-year-old Hyde
Amendment permanent. The amendment, which has had to be approved each year as
part of the budget for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
prohibits tax dollars from paying for abortion except in cases of rape, incest
or threat to the woman’s life. The Senate has yet to act on a companion bill,
but Trump has said he will sign it into law when the measure reaches his desk.

“I urge you to press
on,” Pence told the rally. “Let your gentleness be evident to all.
Let this movement be known for love, not anger. Let this movement be known for
compassion, not confrontation. When it comes to matters of the heart, there is
nothing stronger than gentleness. I believe we will continue to win the minds
and hearts of the rising generation if our hearts first break for mothers and
their unborn children and meet them where they are with generosity, not

“You can sense the
joy in people today,” Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life,
told Catholic News Service. “I hope it’s not lost.”

Earlier in the week,
march organizers predicted at least 50,000 would be there. But there were at
least that many at the rally, and before it was over, marchers, including many
busloads of parochial schoolchildren, covered the full width of Constitution
Avenue, en route to the Supreme Court, for at least seven blocks.

Trump drew considerable
attention earlier in the week by telling Republican lawmakers at a Philadelphia
retreat that there could be as many as 600,000, eclipsing the Woman’s March
Jan. 21, which had an estimated 500,000.

Jeanne Mancini, president
of the March for Life organization, acknowledged that new spotlight.

“There has been a
lot of talk about numbers over the past week. The Women’s March has talked
about numbers and Facebook likes, and people keep asking me about our numbers
for the March for Life. Well, it is hard to add up how many have come here over
the least 44 years, but that really isn’t the point,” she said.

“The only number I care
about, and the only number that we all care about is — 58 million. Since 1973,
58 million Americans have died as a result of abortion,” Mancini said. “We
stand here today for them — for the little innocent children who have lost
their lives to abortion. We also stand here for the mothers who regret their
abortion decision.”

Conway took the podium
before Pence.

“I am a wife, a
mother, a Catholic, counselor to the president of the United States of America,
and yes, I am pro-life,” Conway said. “It is such an honor to stand
with the vice president of the United States and so many leaders, families and
students from places near and far (today).”

“Your courage, your
conviction and your faith are impressive and consequential,” she told the
crowd. “This is a new day, a new dawn for life. Why are we here? What does
it mean to stand together to be part of this incredible movement, to face
criticism, ridicule, and laws and lawmakers (against life)? It means to protect
and promote the most previous gift in the world — the gift of life. It means
to stand up stand tall and stand together against the indifference and the
indefensible and on behalf of babies in the womb.

Conway added, “Allow
me to make it very clear — we hear you, we see you, we respect you, and we
look forward to working with you, and yes, we march, we walk, we run and
endeavor forward with you.”

Congresswoman Love reminded the
rally, “Every year, children, born and unborn, have the potential to open
up our world and take us to places and spaces we never imagined.”

In her remarks, Ernst vowed to
reintroduce legislation to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding. She had
done that in 2015, but “back then, we did not have a president who
respected life” and President Barack Obama vetoed the legislation.

Smith, who is co-chair of the
bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, called Obama “the abortion president”
who “did serious harm.”

“No human rights abuse however
need be forever,” said Smith. “You and I are part of the greatest human rights
struggle on earth. Because we recognize and enthusiastically accept our duty to
protect the weakest and most vulnerable and to tangibly assist women in crisis …
to pray, fast and tenaciously work to protect women and children from the
violence of abortion.”

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