Anti-Choice Rally Touts The Movement’s New Hero: Donald Trump

President Trump was the star of a small anti-abortion rally this morning near a Washington, D.C., Planned Parenthood clinic, and he wasn’t even there. While Trump didn’t attend today’s protest of Planned Parenthood and will likely not address tomorrow’s much larger March for Life, the annual demonstration on the National Mall to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, he was praised by speaker after speaker as their new champion in government.

Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life assured the crowd, which was gathered in front of Planned Parenthood and in between to two school buildings, that Trump is not only on their side, but also that he will do more for their cause than any “pro-life” president that has come before him.

Saying that he has built relationships with Trump’s advisers, who he says have assured him of the president’s anti-abortion bona fides, Pavone described Trump as nothing short of a movement hero.

Trump has already signed an expanded version of the global gag rule, which prohibits funding to family planning groups outside of the U.S. that are involved in abortion services in any way, including referrals and advocacy, and made several pledges to anti-choice groups, including promising to defund Planned Parenthood as long as it offers abortions, ban abortions after 20 weeks, codify the Hyde Amendment, repeal the Affordable Care Act and nominate an abortion rights opponent to the Supreme Court.

If Trump follows through on his vow to repeal the Johnson Amendment, which bars houses of worship from officially endorsing candidates for office while retaining their tax-exempt status, then, according to Pavone, pastors and priests would have “no excuse” not to talk about political issues from the pulpit.

Trump expressed conflicting views on abortion during his presidential campaign but eventually got his anti-abortion talking points in order, helping activists like Pavone embrace his candidacy. Pavone said in August that he would support Trump even if there’s a chance he starts a nuclear war as president because abortion is “like several atomic bombs” that “have already gone off on our own soil.”

Beyond Trump, the massive Women’s March on Washington was also on the minds of speakers, some of whom said that they attended the event to protest it.

Mark Harrington of Created Equal stated that he was afraid for his life while protesting the march, while another speaker, standing in front of graphic posters, said she was offended by the “pussy hats” that many marchers wore to protest Trump’s policies on reproductive health and his comments that he can grab women “by the pussy” because he is a celebrity.

Troy Newman of Operation Rescue, who emerged as a vocal Trump supporter after Trump courted his endorsement, also made an appearance. Newman declared that his group’s aim of defunding Planned Parenthood “is just a start,” urging the Justice Department and state attorneys general to prosecute Planned Parenthood for its supposed crimes.

Just as anti-choice activists like himself were once arrested for blockading abortion clinics, Newman said while pointing at Planned Parenthood, “next it’s these guys who will be wearing orange jumpsuits.” Besides having their clinics closed, Newman said, Planned Parenthood workers should know that “you’re going to jail!”

Fr. Terry Gensemer of Charismatic Episcopal Church for Life said that before he was saved and became an activist, he was prosecuted by then-U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions for unspecified crimes, which he said helped turn his life around. After thanking Sessions, Trump’s nominee to be U.S. attorney general, Gensemer said, “Now please prosecute Planned Parenthood!”

Other speakers told the crowd that it was up to them to keep the pressure on Republican politicians not to compromise on reproductive rights issues.

Jim Sedlak of the American Life League said GOP lawmakers should include “no exceptions” for rape and incest in their anti-choice bills, and activist Bonnie Borel said that conservatives need to also hold the line on opposing contraception, telling women that if they use contraceptives, “you are addicted to a drug” and are helping society’s downfall into sexual permissiveness.

While the clinic they were protesting opened just several months ago, the activists said that they were determined to close it, and Sedlak saw a sign. The number of its address, 1225, he said, showed it had “the mark of Christ” because “that’s Jesus’ birthday!”