By Jonathon Van Maren
Regular readers of this blog will know that I have many reservations about President Donald J. Trump, and that I have had them since he arrived on the national scene. I believe, as Timothy Carney eloquently noted over in the Washington Examiner this week, that pro-lifers should gratefully accept the president’s efforts on behalf of pre-born children—and his Administration’s list of pro-life accomplishments is very impressive—without attempting to defend his character, which is a different thing entirely. Trump is many things, but I do believe that it would be damaging for the movement if he were to become the face or the figurehead.
But it is undeniable that on the issues dear to the hearts of life and family leaders, Trump has been consistent—and even pro-active. Many pro-lifers have consistently assured me that Trump’s change of heart on abortion, which I had been highly suspicious of (his story simply didn’t seem true to me based on the countless conversations I’ve had with people about abortion) is real. Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life told me that he has had several personal conversations with the president on the issue, and that his pro-life convictions are genuine. So have several others who have spoken with Trump directly. Some have provided details about Trump’s conversion on the issue that I can’t share, but that I do find persuasive.
All of that aside, it was simply extraordinary to see the president of the United States of America walk out onstage at the March for Life—the first time the commander-in-chief of the world’s most powerful nation has ever done so. I watched it live earlier today, and it was surreal. I’ve been to the March for Life before (most recently when Vice President Mike Pence was the Administration’s representative), but to see the bullet-proof glass, the giddy faces of the crowd as the president endorsed their years of thankless labor, and the looks of disbelief shared by older activists who had received decades of scorn for their fight against abortion was incredible. This was their president thanking them for doing pro-life work that is so controversial it can receive backlash even from their own churches. It might be hard for those outside of the pro-life movement to understand, but for many pro-life veterans, it was very moving to hear the president’s words.
I’m fully aware of the cynical interpretations of this. Yes, it is an election year. Yes, an impeachment trial is currently underway in the Senate. Yes, Trump is rallying his base as he feels the heat. All of those things are true, and I’m sure all of them contributed to the Administration’s decision to put the president on-stage at the March for Life. But that doesn’t change the fact that his speech was fully backed up by his record. His promises to the movement have not been empty promises, regardless of what you think of his pro-life conversion story or his character. His speech to the roaring crowd of pro-lifers was magnificent, and one of the reasons their enthusiasm was so palpable is that their president was speaking their language and supporting their life-saving work. That’s not nothing. That’s something.
In fact, to the many babies saved by this Administration’s policies, it is everything.
Watch the speech: