Why Mike Pence’s Speech at March for Life Is a Big Deal

Jan 27, 2017

Vice President Mike Pence will address the annual March for Life anti-abortion rally in Washington, D.C. on Friday.

This is a big deal, as no president or vice president has addressed March for Life rallygoers in person since its inception in 1974; President Reagan and President George W. Bush both addressed the crowd remotely during their terms. President Trump was expected to call in to the march, but has since backed out, according to CNN.

Pence’s attendance has amped up attention to the event, which is attended by tens of thousands of people each year.

Pence is an evangelical Christian and known for his extreme views on abortion and women’s reproductive rights. As governor of Indiana, he signed eight bills that limit a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. As a U.S. Representative, he started the congressional movement to defund Planned Parenthood, and cut Planned Parenthood funding in Indiana as governor.

On his Twitter feed yesterday, Pence said he looked forward to addressing the rally:

The March for Life typically occurs around the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that guaranteed a woman’s right to an abortion. Congress has traditionally attempted to pass anti-abortion legislation in the same week, according to the Wall Street Journal.

On Tuesday, the House approved a controversial measure called HR-7 that would make the Hyde Amendment permanent. Th e a mendment forbids federal funds from being used to terminate pregnancies, except in extreme cases. For the past 40 years, its been attached as a rider to annual budget bills , but hasn’t been a permanent law.

Related: How the HR-7 Anti-Abortion Bill Will Hit Small Businesses

For his part, Trump’s views on abortion have changed since running for president. He was once pro-abortion, but changed his tune in 2011, during an unsuccessful presidential run. In 2016, he said he thought women who seek abortions should be punished if the procedure is made illegal, a position he later retracted.

Next week, Trump is expected to announce his pick for Supreme Court justice to replace conservative Antonin Scalia, who died last February and was also an ardent anti-abortionist. Trump is expected to pick a nominee who opposes abortion.

Organizers of the event hope turnout at this year’s March for Life will compete with last Sunday’s Women’s March on Washington, which made reproductive rights one of its cornerstones. Around 440,000 people were estimated to have marched in Washington, D.C., last week.

In addition to Pence, Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway will speak, as well as Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, and several Representatives and Senators.

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