If there’s is any segment of the electorate that President Trump has secured, it’s voters whose No. 1 priority is to end legalized abortion.
Trump will make history today as the first president to give an in-person address to the annual March for Life, a protest that started after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion and draws tens of thousands — sometimes hundreds of thousands — of protesters to the Mall in Washington every January.
This year’s march theme is “Life Empowers: Pro-Life is Pro-Woman.” Speakers include House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Louisiana first lady Donna Hutto Edwards, an antiabortion Democrat who often speaks of how she was encouraged to have an abortion when her now-adult daughter, Samantha, was discovered to have spina bifida.
And, of course, Trump will also address the crowd after sending video greetings for each of the past three years, By personally attending the march as he seeks reelection this year, the president is cementing his alliance with an antiabortion movement that initially viewed him with hostility but is now wholeheartedly behind Trump after a his slew of actions furthering its cause.
The March for Life is honored to announce @realDonaldTrump will be the first U.S. President to speak at the March for Life Rally. Thank you, President Trump, for being a voice for the unborn and continuously working to build a culture of life. https://t.co/lojZssLeim— March for Life (@March_for_Life) January 22, 2020
“President Trump has done more for the pro-life community than any other president, so it is fitting that he would be the first president in history to attend the March for Life,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said.
It’s hard to argue with that assessment of Trump’s three-year record on reproductive rights. The president has moved to cut abortion providers out of Medicaid and the Title X family planning program, banned fetal tissue research, revised an Obama-era policy requiring employers to cover contraceptives, and created a new religious freedom office to handle the cases of health providers pressured to provide services to which they’re morally opposed, such as abortion.
Antiabortion group Susan B. Anthony List:
Our March for Life signs just arrived!— Susan B. Anthony List (@SBAList) January 22, 2020
See below for where to get yours on Friday at the March & then wave it high when President Trump comes on stage!!
BTW here's why President Trump is the most #ProLife President. Ever. 👉 https://t.co/YIxqrhVcew#WhyWeMarch pic.twitter.com/sDucfy0wSE
But antiabortion leaders say the president has done even more to help their cause over the long term. They say Trump's single most important achievement to restrict abortions has been his laser focus, bolstered by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), on filling the federal courts with conservative judges.
“Two words: Supreme Court,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the group Susan B. Anthony List, which seeks to get antiabortion female candidates elected.
“Nothing compares with the impact of a transformed federal court system,” Dannenfelser told me. “That’s why this pro-life movement has never been stronger.”
Trump has sent two justices to the Supreme Court: Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, who filled the spot vacated by moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy and tilted the court toward the conservatives, worrying abortion rights activists that the Roe v. Wade ruling is seriously in danger. But Trump has also filled dozens of seats on federal district and appeals courts.
In December, the Senate approved Trump’s 50th circuit judge over his three years in office. That’s just five away from the total number of judges confirmed during President Barack Obama’s entire eight years in office. The result: Courts are more likely than ever before to uphold the administration’s new policies.
Kristen Waggoner, senior vice president of the U.S. legal division of Alliance Defending Freedom, an influential Christian conservative nonprofit, also spoke glowingly of Trump’s judicial appointments. The administration has done “a really stellar job” in ensuring judges have a philosophy of focusing on the original intent of words, she said.
Waggoner also sees a strong ally in Trump's Justice Department, which frequently adopts stances in favor of state antiabortion measures. She pointed to two prominent Supreme Court cases in which the department sided with “crisis pregnancy centers” and stricter standards for abortion clinics and doctors.
— In the first case, NIFLA v. Becerra, the Supreme Court struck down a California law requiring “crisis pregnancy centers” to notify women that the state provides free or low-cost access to abortion — even though these centers counsel women against getting abortions.
— In the second case, which the court will hear in early March, Louisiana is asking the court to uphold a law requiring abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of the abortion clinic. In a brief filed earlier this month, the Justice Department urged the court to uphold the law, arguing it is legal for states to ensure abortion is performed in a way that ensures “maximum safety for the patient.”
The court struck down a similar law in Texas several years ago, saying the state was placing an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions. But this time around, antiabortion activists are hoping for a win from the court’s new conservative majority.
The bottom line in all of this: Trump has made it virtually impossible for antiabortion voters not to support him in 2020, even if they disagree with his policies in other areas.
This dynamic is especially remarkable considering Trump has undergone a shift on the issue of abortion rights. Two decades ago he described himself as "very pro-choice" despite hating "the concept of abortion." In 2016, he didn't give an answer when New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd asked whether during his days as a "swinging bachelor in Manhattan" he was ever involved with any woman who had an abortion.
“Such an interesting question,” Trump responded. “So what’s your next question?”
Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United for Life, said the president immediately endeared himself to the movement upon taking office in 2017 by reinstating and broadening the so-called Mexico City policy, which bans U.S. funding for foreign organizations that perform or actively promote abortion.
“It’s such a strong precedent that he would take life as one of his very first issues,” Foster said. “To say we have someone in our corner is so powerful.”
AHH, OOF and OUCH
AHH: As demonstrators gather in Washington for the annual March for Life, here’s a look from The Post’s graphics team at where the candidates seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination stand on various questions about abortion restrictions and abortion coverage.
—Every candidate still in the race would seek to repeal the Hyde Amendment, the long-standing ban on federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, invest or if the woman’s life is at risk.
—Six candidates — Mike Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang — say there should be no restrictions on abortion at any point during a healthy pregnancy.
—Eight candidates — Buttigieg, Sanders, Steyer, Warren, Yang, Michael Bennet, John Delaney, and Deval Patrick — say federal law should require private insurance plans to cover abortion.
OOF: The World Health Organization declined to declare a global health emergency over the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak, saying it was too early to make such a decision.
Major Chinese cities, including Beijing and quarantine-blocked Wuhan, have canceled celebrations for the Lunar New Year festival, the most important holiday on the Chinese calendar. The move coincided with expanded travel restrictions imposed on Wuhan and surrounding cities, our Post colleagues Anna Fifield and Lena H. Sun report.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news conference that the decision not to declare a global health emergency “should not be taken as a sign that WHO does not think the outbreak is serious or that we’re not taking it seriously. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
The pneumonia-like virus has killed 26 people so far. And yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Texas health officials notified it about a potential case. CDC said in a statement that it is in communication with state health officials and will share more information as it becomes available.
— Global health officials believe the new virus came from animals sold in a Wuhan market and also say the virus shares similarities with SARS, our Post colleague Yasmeen Abutaleb reports.
“Similar to SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which infected more than 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 before it was mostly contained in 2003, the new virus spreads through close person-to-person contact,” she writes. "... Still, it is not nearly as infectious as the measles virus, which can live for up to two hours in the air after an infected person coughs or sneezes. Nor does it appear to be anywhere near as deadly as Ebola, which is also much harder to transmit. Ebola is passed largely through direct contact with an infected person’s blood or bodily fluids."
OUCH: White House officials put together a short list of potential replacements for Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma just in case either was forced out of the administration, Politico’s Dan Diamond and Adam Cancryn report.
The list was assembled late last year as the public reports of infighting between the senior health officials hit a fever pitch. "Two people with knowledge stressed that the names were not shared with President Donald Trump and that Azar and Verma are expected to remain in their roles through at least the rest of Trump’s first term,” Dan and Adam write. “…Azar and Verma have worked to quell their feud since Vice President Mike Pence and White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney last month urged them to get along. Although Trump berated Azar over bad health care polling last week, White House and HHS officials said his job remains secure.”
Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb was on the list of potential Azar replacements, as was Adam Boehler, who previously led the CMS innovation center; Joe Grogan, the White House domestic policy council director; and HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan. Paul Mango, who currently serves as HHS deputy chief of staff, was considered a potential replacement for Verma.
HEALTH ON THE HILL
— The 34 major drugmakers that are members of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the top trade group for pharmaceutical companies, spent more than $120 million on lobbying last year, paying for more than 450 lobbyists who worked to bat down legislative efforts to lower prescription drug costs, Stat News’s Nicholas Florko reports.
PhRMA lobbied on more than 90 drug pricing bills, including smaller efforts.
“PhRMA also broke its all-time annual lobbying record this year. It spent $28.9 million in 2019, surpassing its previous record of $27.5 million, set last year,” he writes. “The all-time high sums helped the industry fend off several major scares: Despite widespread, bipartisan consensus that Congress should act to lower drug prices, as well as increasing voter attention on the issue, lawmakers achieved only a handful of very small reforms in 2019.”
Pfizer spent the most, with nearly $11 million in lobbying last year, along with Amgen, which spent about the same.
“Drug makers are also likely spending far more than the amounts listed in the public disclosures. Organizations are only required to report the money they spend directly lobbying Congress,” Nick adds. “They do not have to report how much they spend on advertising campaigns or the consultants and lawyers they employ to influence legislation but who do not directly try to influence lawmakers.”
— Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), chairman of a House Oversight and Reform subcommittee, sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration questioning the Trump administration’s move to reverse course on banning all flavored e-cigarettes.
“On September 11, 2019, President Trump and his top health officials publicly vowed to protect America’s youth by clearing the market of all flavored vaping products, including menthol. The President pledged that the FDA would take action within a ‘couple of weeks,’ ” Krishnamoorthi wrote. “Despite these promises, the President went back on his commitment. The guidance was not finalized for 113 days, and when it emerged from FDA on January 2, 2020, special interests had secured an exemption for menthol.”
The letter cites comments from a CNBC interview in which Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said the agency would consider restricting menthol products if teen use spiked.
The letter called on the agency to respond to questions by Feb. 4. about what tools it will use to monitor menthol e-cigarette use and whether they will commit to clearing the market of such products if there is a marked increase in use.
— The National Archives has replaced an altered photo of the 2017 Women’s March with the original version of the image, days after apologizing for making changes, our Post colleague Joe Heim reports.
The Archives told The Post last week that in the image, which showed protesters holding signs, it had blurred Trump’s name “so as not to engage in current political controversy” and also redacted references to women’s anatomy because the words could be seen as inappropriate for young visitors.
“Historians roundly criticized the decision, arguing that documents and photos should never be altered, particularly by the government agency in charge of keeping and curating them. A public outcry followed publication of The Post’s story that noted the alteration of the photo,” Joe writes. “On Saturday afternoon, less than 24 hours after The Post’s story was published, the Archives released a statement that began with ‘We made a mistake.’ It promised to launch a ‘thorough review of our exhibit policies and procedures so that this does not happen again.’ The altered photo was removed by Saturday.”
— And here are a few more good reads:
- The annual March for Life will be held in Washington.