Last week, President Trump became the first-ever sitting president to speak at the March for Life, an annual protest against abortion rights timed with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Addressing the tens of thousands of marchers who had gathered at the Capitol via satellite, Trump spoke about the sanctity of life and the power of love. “Every child is a precious gift from God,” he announced, to applause. “We know that life is the greatest miracle of all.”
Introducing Trump before his speech, Vice President Pence praised him as “the most pro-life president in American history.” This was mere days after Trump provoked an international outcry by reportedly wondering why the US government would allow the formerly unborn children of Haiti, El Salvador, and nations of Africa wanted to leave their “shithole” (or, possibly, "shithouse") countries and move here. It was also in the midst of a congressional stalemate over DACA that left the fates of hundreds of thousands of immigrants who had arrived in the US as children hanging in the balance. On the afternoon of the March for Life, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted a particularly grotesque infographic, one that needlessly pitted these vulnerable undocumented immigrants against sick children who rely on the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). “Democrats have a choice to make,” it read. “CHIP or DACA.”
In September of last year, the Pope himself criticized Trump for his stance on immigration. “If he is a good pro-life [man], then he will understand that the family is the cradle of life and that it must be defended as a unit,” he said. In December, uncowed, the White House tweeted a statement calling for the end of “chain migration,” ostensibly on the basis of stopping terrorism. Critics were quick to point out that “chain migration” is just a slightly sociopathic way of saying “family-based immigration.”
As Congress furiously debated the futures of thousands of people who call America home, the March for Life stayed largely silent on their failure to reauthorize DACA. (According to an op-ed published on Catholic News Agency, at one point during the march, “a whole group of pro-life marchers started chanting, in unison, ‘Build that wall! Build that wall!’”) Nor did anyone at the March demand aid for the thousands of families without power in Puerto Rico, or protest when Trump’s budget decimated programs for disabled people and poor families. Instead of pushing Paul Ryan to vote on the future of healthcare for 9 million children, they invited him to proudly tout the anti-abortion votes Congress took under his reign.
So, yes, Trump might be “the most pro-life president in American history,” but only if your definition of life ends at the moment of childbirth. In his first year in office, he’s provided the anti-abortion movement with win after win—reinstating and expanding the Global Gag Rule, which denies US aid to any organization that so much as discusses abortion; appointed extremely anti-choice justices to the Supreme Court and federal courts across the country; and filled the Department of Health and Human Services with anti-abortion and anti-contraception extremists.
Trump might be “the most pro-life president in American history,” but only if your definition of life ends at the moment of childbirth.
At the same time, of course, his administration has been hellbent on destroying the Affordable Care Act, with a plan that would eliminate maternity and newborn care as essential health benefits, and could increase the cost of pregnancy by 425 percent; nominated a woman who doesn’t think insurance companies should be required to provide maternity coverage to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; and directly attacked the rights of transgender kids and sexual assault survivors in schools.
It’s fitting that Trump would be lauded in such grandiose terms at the March for Life. He perfectly epitomizes everything the contemporary anti-abortion movement stands for: While they obsessively protect life at conception, they’ve never actually stood to protect lives. Nowhere is the anti-abortion movement’s indifference to lives outside of the womb more apparent than in their appropriation of Black Lives Matter rhetoric. Signs bearing the slogan “Unborn lives matter”—and, more pointedly, “Unborn Black lives matter”—have become a fixture at anti-abortion marches. A popular talking point among this strain of anti-abortion activist is that abortion is akin to Black genocide, because Black women have abortions at higher rates than white women. In actuality, this is due to racialized health disparities—another thing the anti-abortion movement is conspicuously silent on. And, of course, the “pro-life” movement has never spoken out about the state-sanctioned murders of children like Tamir Rice and Aiyana Stanley-Jones.
The vast majority of anti-abortion activists are sitting idly through a maternal mortality crisis of epic proportions: The US now has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the industrialized world, with Black women dying at four times the rate of white women. It’s now been over four years since the Flint water crisis made headlines, yet no anti-abortion leaders have called to replace the pipes so babies have clean water to nourish their growing bodies. This is despite an ongoing miscarriage crisis among Black women in Flint, which is thought to be caused by the toxic water.
The “pro-life” movement cannot claim the moral high ground on protecting life until they prove they’re interested in protecting the lives of all people, not just the unborn—and, really, only the unborn threatened by abortion. There are currently millions of people living in America who desperately need advocates to fight for them: those deeply in need of healthcare, those who want to keep their families together inside our nation’s borders, and children who want to attend school and play in parks without fearing for their lives. Until the “pro-life” movement can show it’s willing to fight for these individuals, too, they’ll only be marching for hypocrisy.