President Donald Trump made history as the first sitting president to attend the annual March for Life last Friday, but his presence hurt more than helped the pro-life movement.
This year was my fourth time attending the March in D.C., and it was, by far, the most Trump-crazed one I’ve yet seen. That makes sense. But while walking toward the National Mall, I saw several vendors selling Trump merchandise (complete with T‑shirts that read “Impeach This,” showing Trump flipping the bird), scores of MAGA hats, a flag with a Trump-as-Rambo image, and various signs praising the president for one accomplishment or another.
I got an odd feeling in my stomach. Had I walked into a Trump campaign rally? This was supposed to be the March for Life, not the March for Trump.
“They are coming after me because I am fighting for you,” he said, obviously referencing the ongoing impeachment proceedings. But the March isn’t the place for Trump to set himself up as a political martyr.
Several mainstream media outlets posted March for Life coverage, the lack of which pro-lifers have bemoaned in past years.
As expected, however, the articles almost never explored the reasons we were protesting or what people thought about the March itself. Most of these articles instead covered the pre-March rally as if it were a giant campaign event for the president’s reelection bid.
No one doubts that Trump’s presence at the March is newsworthy. Editors would have been fools if they hadn’t assigned reporters. But they refused to tell the whole story about the March and the pro-life movement’s efforts there.
One NPR article featured interviews with protestors at the rally, but it only highlighted their thoughts regarding the president. The piece didn’t include what protestors had to say on the March itself or even why they’re pro-life.
Meanwhile, USA Today reported that after the president’s speech, the crowd began chanting “four more years.” That’s the kind of thing you’d expect from a campaign rally — especially when the March has seen so many of its own chants over the years, like “We love babies, how ‘bout you?” or “Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Roe v. Wade has got to go.”
Trump certainly had some good things to say at the rally, especially early on in his address: “Together, we must protect, cherish, and defend the dignity and the sanctity of every human life,” he said.
He soon turned the speech to focus on himself, though, as he resorted to rehashing his list of pro-life actions. And, to be sure, pro-lifers should applaud what he’s done with the Mexico City policy and Title IX, for example.
But as pro-lifers, we must be wary of regarding our president as the darling of the pro-life movement. Trump went too far in his address when he arrogantly asserted that “unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House.” His tweet on May 18 would beg to differ.
“As most people know, and for those who would like to know, I am strongly Pro-Life, with the three exceptions — Rape, Incest and protecting the Life of the mother — the same position taken by Ronald Reagan,” he tweeted.
Many people in the conservative wing of the pro-life movement would tell you they don’t support exceptions for rape and incest. Talk show hosts Ben Shapiro and Matt Walsh have both spoken out against such exceptions.
All unborn children are living human beings made in the image of God, and the circumstances leading to their conception, no matter how horrible and heart-breaking, don’t change their value as persons. The fact that Trump tries to justify this view by name-dropping Ronald Reagan seems nothing short of political expediency, especially as he tries to keep his core evangelical voting bloc.
Besides, some have speculated that Trump paid for women’s abortions in the past. We can’t affirm these claims until we see real evidence, but he has never directly answered the question as to whether he has paid for an abortion.
New York Times writer Maureen Dowd said in 2016 that, during an interview, she asked if he was involved with anyone who had an abortion.
“Such an interesting question,” he reportedly said. “So what’s your next question?”
Beyond his inconsistencies in pro-life views, Trump also hasn’t demonstrated he values human life across the board. Pro-lifers can’t just wish away his derogatory comments about women, minorities, and the disabled — who all have the same human value as unborn children.
Trump publicly apologized for his filthy comments in 2005 about groping women, but there seems to be no end to possible cases of sexual misconduct on his part. Especially with the March’s pro-woman theme this year, we don’t need to make a pro-life icon of a man who even places himself in situations where there’s the slightest insinuation of improper behavior.
In a time when America is more divided than ever, the pro-life movement needs to strengthen itself across party and idealogical lines. Conservative groups fighting abortion need to join arms with similar groups on the left, like Democrats for Life of America.
Protestants and Roman Catholics have linked arms in this battle against a culture of death. It’s time for Republicans, Democrats, and independants to do the same if we’re going to have a good chance of actually seeing our nation embrace a wholistically pro-life view.
Lifting up Trump as a pro-life savior is only going to hurt our chances in that regard.
Nolan Ryan is a senior studying English. He is the editor-in-chief of The Collegian.