- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Much has changed since last year’s March for Life, when an enormous crowd gathered to celebrate a series of pro-life policy wins at the federal level and the first-ever in-person appearance of a sitting U.S. president.

Not this year. In deference to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 48th annual rally scheduled for Friday will be almost completely virtual, with just a small cluster of pro-life leaders holding a socially distanced march in Washington.

Then there is the political turnaround. President Trump’s defeat in November triggered the replacement of what has been described as the most pro-life White House in modern history with a staunchly pro-choice administration poised to make its mark by “codifying” abortion rights into law.

“Carrying on this March for Life tradition is critical this year because of the Biden-Harris administration, which has promised to be the most pro-abortion administration in history,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life.

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris commemorated the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision legalizing abortion by reiterating their commitment to “codifying Roe v. Wade and appointing judges that respect foundational precedents like Roe.”

“In the past four years, reproductive health, including the right to choose, has been under relentless and extreme attack,” said their Jan. 23 statement. “We are deeply committed to making sure everyone has access to care, including reproductive health care.”

That means, among other things, that no current president or vice president will be at the march for the first time since 2017.

The top elected officials slated to speak are Rep. Chris Smith, New Jersey Republican, and Kat Cammack, Florida Republican, joined by a couple of Democrats: Kentucky state Rep. Angie Hatton and Hawaii state Sen. Mike Gabbard, father of former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Celebrity roles will be filled by Tim Tebow, a Heisman Trophy winner who is making his first appearance at the March for Life, and former NFL tight end Benjamin Watson, a Super Bowl champion, and his wife, Kirsten Watson.

Mr. Watson, a speaker at the 2016 march, said the priority must be to “support all life” no matter who is in the White House.

“My main message is that the work doesn’t stop,” said Mr. Watson, who sits on the Human Coalition advisory board. “The intensity of the work continues no matter who’s in office. We do ourselves a disservice if we only trust in who’s in the White House, who’s on the Supreme Court.”

Mr. Biden is expected to reverse as early as Thursday the so-called Mexico City policy, known to its critics as the “global gag rule,” which bars U.S. funding for foreign organizations that promote or perform abortions.

That decision is hardly surprising. Every Democratic president since 1992 has rescinded the policy, only to have it reinstated by Republicans. But the Biden administration is expected to go further by retracting the Trump administration’s conscience protections and funding cuts to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.

In June 2019, Mr. Biden announced he had switched positions on the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding for most U.S. abortions. He now opposes the amendment.

“If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone’s ZIP code,” Mr. Biden said at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Atlanta.

Ms. Mancini said “Mexico City has gone back and forth with the different presidencies. … Trump, of course, expanded the policy, so we anticipate that all of that will be rescinded.”

Hyde is different. “The Hyde Amendment, that’s been popular for decades, since the late 1970s. We’ll see how this all goes, but if Joe Biden really wants to unite the country, he should look at public opinion on these issues,” she said.

A Marist/Knights of Columbus poll released Tuesday found that 77% of 1,173 U.S. adults surveyed opposed using taxpayer dollars to fund abortions overseas, including 64% of those who identify as pro-choice.

“We really want to make sure we highlight the consensus that exists across the ideological spectrum on issues of international funding for abortion,” Knights of Columbus senior policy director Tim Saccoccia said on a press call. “We have 77% of Americans who believe abortion should not be funded by tax dollars abroad. … There is a consensus and a unity on this issue that exists.”

The poll also found that 76% want “significant restrictions,” the loosest of which is limiting abortion to the first three months of pregnancy, and that 58% opposed using taxpayer funds for U.S. abortions.

Other polls have shown that Americans oppose overturning Roe. A September survey by NBC News/Survey Monkey found that 66% did not support completely overturning the decision.

The U.S. abortion rate has declined steadily since its peak in 1980. The trend is attributed to the widespread availability of birth control and drop in teen pregnancies, as well as the growth of the pro-life movement, which has sought to reach out to a younger constituency.

In 2019, the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute reported that the number of U.S. abortions fell by 196,000 from 2011 to 2017, for “a 19% decline from 1,058,000 abortions in 2011 to 862,000 abortions in 2017.” The institute found a reported 73 million abortions per year internationally from 2015 to 2019.

Although pro-life advocates lost an ally in the White House, the November election had a few silver linings, including a record 29 House Republican women, most of whom oppose abortion.

“Something that we can be really delighted about are the over 200 judges that President Trump was able to put into place while in office, including three Supreme Court justices,” said Ms. Mancini. “We have the most Republican women that have ever been elected to the House, and they’re almost all pro-life.”

The March for Life is typically held on or around Jan. 23, the anniversary of the Roe decision. Organizers pushed back the date this year to avoid the security and logistical difficulties associated with holding an event within days of the presidential inauguration, she said.

Mr. Watson said he hoped to encourage people with his remarks, given that the march is “something that people look forward to every year. I always love being at the March for Life and seeing the young people that travel all the way across the country in a bus.”

“A lot of people are disappointed about not being able to gather in person,” he said. “The first part of the message is just encouraging people. While we may be apart physically, we can still be together in spirit. And we can still be unified to create a culture of life, and to support all life.”

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