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Demonstrators flooded the National Mall on Friday morning in anticipation of a historic moment for the anti-abortion movement: the first sitting president to address the annual March for Life in person.
Past Republican presidents who opposed abortion merely sent in video messages, or delegated a surrogate to speak in their place. But when President Trump announced last week on Twitter that he planned to speak in front of the group, he made it clear he was intent on solidifying his support with socially conservative voters on the day House Democrats were making their final formal argument for his removal from office.
Roy Hagemyer, 62, a pastor from Mohave Valley, Arizona, who was standing at the corner of 15th Street and Constitution Avenue giving out signs reading “Human Rights begin in the Womb,” could barely contain his excitement ahead of Mr. Trump’s speech.
“The president is going to speak here today, the first time in history,” he said, smiling. “That really puts a lot of horse power behind our movement.”
Mr. Hagemyer said Mr. Trump’s support makes him even more optimistic about the future. “I firmly believe that in my lifetime we will see Roe V. Wade overturned,” he said referring to the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that extended federal protections to abortion. “The tide is turning. People are starting to realize abortion is not something we should be doing.”
Mr. Trump’s relationship with the anti-abortion movement has been a transactional one since he entered politics in 2016. He has focused his efforts in particular on white evangelicals and Catholics, a critical part of his base in 2016, who could also be equally important in November.
In exchange for the appointment of anti-abortion judges, his unwavering support for Israel and his attempts to protect the rights of students to pray in schools, they have generally overlooked Mr. Trump’s own complicated past with the issue and his own history of three marriages and two divorces.
In a 1999 interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he described himself as “pro-choice in every respect.” And four years ago this month, leading abortion opponents including Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, wrote a letter urging Iowans “to support anyone but Trump” in the Republican caucus, because “on the issue of defending unborn children and protecting women from the violence of abortion, Mr. Trump cannot be trusted.”
That changed once he won the Republican nomination. Ms. Dannenfelser led Mr. Trump’s Pro-Life Coalition. And evangelical misgivings about Mr. Trump, widely voiced during the 2016 campaign, have largely disappeared as a result of his efforts as president.