scorecardresearch Skip to main content

Seeing hope in Trump, local anti-abortion advocates head to D.C. rally

Brianna Saldana of St. Mark Parish in Boston led a prayer as people from the Boston are traveled to the annual March for Life in Washington. George Martell/Archdiocese of Boston

This march-on-Washington thing is nothing new for Jane Finn, a 71-year-old who has boarded a bus almost every January for the past 32 years to participate in the March for Life.

Unlike last weekend’s Women’s March, which drew throngs of sudden activists to Washington and other cities to demonstrate for women’s rights, Friday’s March for Life is an annual ritual for women on the opposite side of the spectrum, those who want to end abortion. And suddenly, Finn realizes, her crowd is being heard.

Just days into President Trump’s administration, the anti-abortion movement has logged progress on two of its four top agenda items, on expanding protections against government funding for abortions both in the United States and overseas.


For the first time, a presidential administration will be represented at the march; in addition to remarks from presidential aide Kellyanne Conway, a longtime abortion opponent, the crowd will hear from Vice President Mike Pence himself.

And Trump has said he will appoint a Supreme Court justice who opposes abortion — as early as next week.

“There are so many people out there who thought that we were always in the minority,” said Finn, of Wilmington. “To see such a groundswell of people who did think like you was a tremendous gift.”

That it would happen under Trump was certainly unexpected.

At this time last year, abortion opponents urged voters heading to the Iowa caucuses to support “anyone but Trump,” saying the wild-card candidate, who had once announced strong support for abortion rights, could not be trusted to defend unborn children — or the dignity of women.

“As women, we are disgusted by Mr. Trump’s treatment of individuals, women, in particular,” wrote the group of anti-abortion leaders, including the Susan B. Anthony List.

“He has impugned the dignity of women, most notably Megyn Kelly, he mocked and bullied Carly Fiorina, and has through the years made disparaging public comments to and about many women. Further, Mr. Trump has profited from the exploitation of women in his Atlantic City casino hotel which boasted of the first strip club casino in the country.”


That impression hasn’t faded, some of the marchers said Thursday. But Trump became an unexpected ally during his campaign, saying he would defund Planned Parenthood and enlisting Pence, an abortion opponent, as his running mate. In September, when Trump made a series of commitments to the antiabortion movement, he also enlisted the head of the Susan B. Anthony List, who had championed that anyone-but-Trump memo, to lead his pro-life coalition.

At that time, Trump vowed to nominate to the Supreme Court judges who oppose abortion, defund Planned Parenthood if it continues to perform abortions, sign a law ending late-term abortions, and make permanent the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits taxpayer funding of abortions.

That distinguished him further from Democrat Hillary Clinton — who campaigned last year for repeal of the Hyde Amendment — making the general election choice clear for single-issue voters, despite the “negatives” and “moral issues” Trump presented, as one marcher put it.

“We wanted somebody else, but when it came down to Trump and Hillary, no question,”  said Tom Harvey, 60, a lawyer and activist from Belmont who was leading one of the buses to the March for Life.

After the election, Harvey said, “I think people were questioning, would Trump follow through on some of the stuff he was saying? So far, so good on the pro-life perspective.”


Just days into Trump’s administration, some measures have already seen movement.

In one of his first executive orders as president, Trump reinstated the so-called Mexico City policy, which bars US funding for family planning services to any foreign organizations involved in abortion services.

The new measure goes further by saying that organizations that accept US aid cannot perform or promote abortion using any source of funding.

The policy began in the Reagan administration during a conference on population in Mexico City in 1984 and has been rescinded and reinstated by presidential administrations along party lines since, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Women’s rights advocates said the measure would cause clinics around the world to close, resulting in more unintended pregnancies and more unsafe abortions.

And they fear that it would even prohibit federal health funding for centers that allow abortions, threatening funding for efforts like controlling the Zika virus.

“The world’s most vulnerable women will suffer as a direct result of this policy, which threatens to undermine years of effort to improve women’s health,” Latanya Mapp Frett, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Global, said in a statement.

In addition, on Tuesday the House voted to make the Hyde Amendment permanent.

That 40-year-old federal law bars any federal funding for abortions — except in pregnancies that result from rape or incest or that could endanger the woman’s life — but it had to be reapproved annually by Congress.

The measure newly passed by the House would go further, blocking health plans that cover abortions from participating in the marketplaces set up under the Affordable Care Act (which Congress also intends to repeal).


Businesses that offer health plans that cover abortions could no longer get small-business tax credits under the bill passed by the House. It now moves to the Senate.

Funding for Planned Parenthood is also on the chopping block, and as early as Thursday Trump is expected to nominate a Supreme Court justice who could sway court rulings against abortion rights — moves that motivated many of the women to demonstrate last weekend in Washington, D.C., and in marches around the world.

While the huge crowds at last week’s Women’s Marches surprised and impressed many, abortion opponents were put off by their exclusion and the event’s strong focus on abortion rights.

Now, they hope the momentum is on their side.

“I hope I live long enough to see abortion gone,” Finn said. “That’s my dream.”

Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @StephanieEbbert.