Vice President Mike Pence on Friday became the highest-ranking government official to ever address the annual March for Life rally in Washington, DC, pledging that the new administration would limit abortion access as much as possible in the US.
He opened with a reference to the Declaration of Independence's right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," saying the country had abandoned the first principle when the Supreme Court ruled in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that women had a constitutional right to an abortion.
"Today, three 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 told the cheering crowd.
The 44th annual March for Life brought thousands of antiabortion demonstrators to the National Mall, carrying signs saying "I am the pro-life generation" and "Abortion is murder." Organizers and participants expressed glee that the tide seemed to be turning in their favor.
Both the White House and Congress are now controlled by the Republican Party, which has traditionally opposed abortion rights and has indicated it plans to try to restrict them in the next four years.
On Monday, his third full day in office, President Donald Trump signed an executive order reinstating a gag order keeping American nongovernmental organizations that receive federal funding from discussing abortion abroad.
Pence said Trump would name a nominee for the vacant Supreme Court seat next week who opposes abortion rights.
And in Congress, Republican majorities are vowing to "defund" Planned Parenthood and bar most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Trump has said he would sign both measures.
"Be assured: Along with you we will not grow weary, we will not rest, until we restore a culture of life in America for ourselves and our posterity," Pence concluded.
There was a war of hashtags on Twitter between those supporting and opposing abortion rights, with both #MarchForLife and #MarchofLies trending, representing a sharp divide on the contentious issue among Americans.
"Pence keeps speaking of 'compassion.' True compassion means preventing deaths from unsafe abortion — not bringing them back," the Center for Reproductive Rights wrote on Twitter. "Pence says he shows 'respect for the dignity and worth of every person.' What about women?"
Trump tweeted support for the rally:
The #MarchForLife is so important. To all of you marching --- you have my full support!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 27, 2017
A majority of Americans support the constitutional right for women to get abortions. Pew Research Center polls have found that 59% of US adults today support the legality of abortion in general and 69% want the Supreme Court to uphold Roe — both numbers that have risen over time.
Scientific studies have found that when abortion access is limited, women are more likely to seek illegal abortions or try to perform them on their own, from which they are more likely to suffer severe complications or even die.
Watch Pence's full remarks below:
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