Trump Tells Anti-Abortion Marchers ‘We Are With You All the Way’ and Shows It

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In the daily din of scandal and turmoil that has dominated President Trump’s first year in office, it can be easily overlooked how transformative he has been in using his executive powers to curtail abortion rights.

As thousands of anti-abortion marchers gathered on the National Mall in Washington in the annual March for Life on Friday, Mr. Trump ordered his administration to make it easier for states to cut off money for Planned Parenthood clinics that offer health care to low-income women.

The move capped a week of action by the White House that helped to further seal its relationship with the anti-abortion movement.

In just the last few days, the president has expanded religious freedom protections for health care providers who object to performing procedures like abortion and gender reassignment surgery; created a new entity within the Department of Health and Human Services called the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division; ordered the department to more vigorously enforce existing laws that shield people in government-funded programs from violating their religious beliefs; and declared Monday “National Sanctity of Human Life Day.”

“We are with you all the way,” Mr. Trump told marchers he had invited to the Rose Garden to mark the occasion. His remarks were broadcast to the Mall, the first time a president had addressed the annual March for Life on live television. In the past, they have either recorded messages or phoned in their remarks.

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The president’s enthusiasm did not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

“He seemed so excited about it,” said Jeanne Mancini, the president of March for Life. “I could sort of see it looking up at the jumbotron.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a leading anti-abortion group, said the president’s directives amounted to taking “a monumental stand.”

For someone who once described himself as “very pro-choice,” Mr. Trump’s transformation into a champion of the anti-abortion cause is a remarkable political evolution.

Anti-abortion activists and Christian conservative leaders have remained one of his most loyal and deferential constituencies, even as he faced accusations that would have been the undoing of other politicians. This week, as the president brushed off allegations that his personal lawyer paid a pornographic-film actress with whom he was said to be involved with $130,000 in hush money, the religious right was full of praise for the president.

“President Trump has never pretended to be a Bible-banging evangelical,” said Penny Young Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, a Christian conservative organization. “He is who he is. His policies speak for themselves.”

Besides his executive orders, conservatives are celebrating one of the most ambitious efforts ever undertaken by a White House to reshape the federal judiciary.

Mr. Trump has appointed judges to appellate courts at a rate faster than any new president since Richard M. Nixon, and the Republican-controlled Senate is working to speed the approval of Mr. Trump’s lower-level district court nominees. Abortion rights groups have objected to many of the nominees.

Mr. Trump’s policies could have serious consequences for abortion providers like Planned Parenthood, which has become a target of the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress.

The new directive Mr. Trump issued on Friday could prove especially problematic. Planned Parenthood says that 60 percent of its patients receive Medicaid assistance. And the new rules would make it easier for states to bar Medicaid funding from going to the women’s health provider.

“This is part of the Trump administration’s commitment to rolling back regulations the Obama administration put out to radically favor abortion,” said Charmaine Yoest, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services.

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president for Planned Parenthood Action Fund, accused the Trump administration and Republicans of circumventing the legislative process. “They couldn’t get the votes to pass it in Congress, so now they are pushing states to try and block care,” she said.

The president’s remarks to the march on Friday were just part of a week in which the White House rolled out the red carpet for the anti-abortion movement. Vice President Mike Pence hosted anti-abortion leaders at a private reception on the White House grounds on Thursday, telling them, “Life is winning.”

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