WASHINGTON: Anti-abortion activists are preparing to stage a major march in Washington on Friday to capitalize on right-wing political momentum and send an unequivocal message to their new powerful ally: Donald Trump.
The annual “March for Life” is set to take place six days after millions rallied in progressive women’s marches in cities across the United States and around the world to warn the new president they will oppose attacks on their freedoms, including access to abortion.
The 44th annual anti-abortion march, billed as the world’s largest “pro-life” rally, is also expected to draw participants from all corners of the country exactly one week after Trump’s inauguration.
The Republican president predicted its turnout would be larger than the women’s march in Washington the previous week.
“They’ll have 300, 400, 500, 600,000 people,” he told Republican lawmakers on Thursday.
“You won’t even read about it,” he added, taking a swipe at the mainstream news media that he routinely accuses of bias.
“A lot of people are expecting it to be the largest March for Life in a long time,” said Chris Gast, communications director for Right to Life of Michigan.
The city of Grand Rapids alone plans to send 12 busloads of people to Washington, he said.
The march will take place days after the 44th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark US Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in 1973.
Trump has already cheered abortion foes just days into his presidency. On Monday, he signed a decree barring US federal funding for foreign NGOs that support abortion.
Next Thursday, he is expected to announce his choice to fill an empty seat on the Supreme Court, a nominee who’s widely expected to staunchly oppose abortion rights.
Conway to speak
Featured speakers at Friday’s event include Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s influential senior aide Kellyanne Conway.
The mother of four with a Catholic background will share the stage with Republican lawmakers, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan and other religious leaders.
The march will end at the Capitol — where Republicans hold the majority in both chambers — but the activists’ focus will be on the building opposite Congress: the Supreme Court.
If Trump appoints a second conservative Supreme Court justice during his White House tenure, their dream of overturning Roe v. Wade could become reality — even though seven of 10 Americans oppose scrapping the high court decision that established the right to an abortion in the first three months of pregnancy, a study by the Pew Research Center found this month.
Meanwhile, abortion opponents are taking action at the state and local levels, encouraged by the ascent of Pence, Trump’s nominee for attorney general Jeff Sessions and other anti-abortion heavyweights.
US states enacted 338 restrictions on abortion between 2010 and 2016, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.
Pro-choice advocates especially oppose Trump’s health secretary nominee Tom Price, who as a congressman consistently voted to block access and funding for abortion.
“This looming federal onslaught against a broad spectrum of reproductive health services,” the Guttmacher Institute said, “threatens a massive rollback of women’s health, rights and autonomy.” AFP