By Katharine Jackson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump spoke in a pre-recorded video to thousands of anti-abortion activists in Washington on Friday for the 46th March for Life, vowing to veto any legislation that “weakens the protection of human life.”
The event is the largest annual gathering in the United States of opponents of the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade. That ruling found that certain state laws outlawing abortion were an unconstitutional violation of a woman’s right to privacy, effectively legalizing abortion nationwide.
“As president, I will always defend the first right in our Declaration of Independence, the right to life,” Trump said in remarks recorded in the Oval Office, a right he said extended to “unborn children.”
Vice President Mike Pence appeared onstage at the rally to introduce the video, calling Trump, who before entering politics said he supported abortion access, “the most pro-life president in American history.”
During his 2016 campaign, Trump vowed to appoint Supreme Court justices he believed would overturn Roe. He has since appointed two justices to the court, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, cementing the court’s 6-3 conservative-leaning majority.
Since the heated Senate confirmation hearings for Kavanaugh, the court has steered clear of some cases on volatile social issues involving abortion.
Marchers held signs saying “Pray to End Abortion” and calling for the defunding Planned Parenthood, a national healthcare provider that provides abortions. “My unexpected pregnancy is now 30!” read another sign.
One marcher said she had an abortion when she was 15 but had been opposed to abortion ever since the birth of her first daughter.
“Every child is human even in utero and they deserve the right to life,” Sheila, a 56-year-old Maryland resident, said in an interview, declining to give her last name because of the political divisiveness of the subject.
Speakers at this year’s rally include Congressman Dan Lipinski, a Democrat, and Congressman Chris Smith, a Republican.
Supporters of abortion access say bans infringe on women’s rights and health, and lead to greater rates of injury and death among pregnant women.
About half of U.S. adults say abortion should be legal, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll last year, with about 68 percent of Democrats supporting abortion access compared to about 31 percent of Republicans.
(Additional reporting and writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Scott Malone, Bill Berkrot and Tom Brown)