Vice President Mike Pence said Friday that “life is winning in America” as he addressed an anti-abortion rally in Washington.
Pence said President Donald J. Trump “stands for the right to life.”
“We thank you for your love for the women and children of America,’” he told the crowd, calling for a return to a “culture of life” in America.
March for Life organizers said that neither a president nor a vice president has ever addressed the event, which is now in its 44th year. But abortion opponents have all the political momentum for the first time in years. Local activists headed to the rally with new hope, the Globe reported today.
The March for Life is held each year in Washington to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
Pence said the administration would work to end taxpayer funding of “abortions and abortion providers.”
He also touted one of Trump’s first official acts after taking office a week ago, which was to sign an executive order banning US aid to foreign groups that provide abortions.
“I like to say, over there at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we’re in the promise-keeping business,” Pence said.
And he told the crowd that the administration would announce a Supreme Court nominee next week who will “uphold the God-given liberties enshrined in our Constitution in the tradition of the late and great Justice Antonin Scalia.”
He also sounded a gentler note, saying, “Let this movement be known for love, not anger. Let this movement be known for compassion not confrontation. ... When it comes to matters of the heart, there is nothing stronger than gentleness.”
And he included a plug for the president, saying, “I can tell you firsthand: Our president is a man with broad shoulders and a big heart. His vision, his energy, his optimism are boundless, and I know he will make America great again.”
Organizers told the National Park Service in their permit application they expect 50,000 participants. Yet Trump insisted on the eve of the rally that the crowd would be far larger, saying ‘‘a lot of people are gonna be showing up.’’
‘‘You know, the press never gives them the credit that they deserve,’’ Trump told Republicans gathered in Philadelphia. ‘‘They’ll have 300, 400, 500, 600 thousand people. You won’t even read about it. When other people show up, you read big-time about it. Right? So, it’s not fair, but nothing fair about the media.’’
In Congress, Republican majorities in both chambers are vowing to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provided more than a third of the nation’s abortions in 2014. They also hope to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Trump has pledged to sign both measures if they reach his desk.
Less than a year ago, with Barack Obama’s second term winding down, things were markedly different. The Supreme Court struck down Texas’ strict regulations on abortion clinics as interfering with a woman’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy. And with polls at the time suggesting Hillary Clinton would likely defeat Trump, abortion opponents worried about an era of liberal majorities on the court.
‘‘The horizon looked bleak for the pro-life movement,’’ said Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life.
Mancini suggested that many voters chose Trump largely because he pledged to appoint a Supreme Court justice who shared their views on abortion, even if they disagreed with him on other issues.
‘‘I don’t identify as a Republican or a Democrat but I do vote pro-life,’’ Mancini said.
Abortion opponents also were heartened by a recent study that found the number of abortions in the United States dropped under 1 million in 2014, the lowest total in 40 years. The report by the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, credited increased access to birth control but also a surge in abortion restrictions in many states.
Americans remain deeply divided on abortion.
The latest Gallup survey, released last spring, found that 47 percent of Americans described themselves as pro-choice and 46 percent as pro-life. It also found that 79 percent believed abortion should be legal in either some or all circumstances.
Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said that poll shows why abortion-rights supporters shouldn’t despair. She also said Republicans were taking actions that would result in more illegal abortions and deaths of pregnant women.
‘‘The vast majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade and support the legal right to abortion,’’ Hogue said.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.