Pro-life advocates held the annual March for Life in Washington D.C. Friday afternoon. Five days after the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a crowd that the Associated Press reported contained tens of thousands of people — and visibly larger than in recent years — paraded on the National Mall.
People of all ages carried signs with anti-abortion messages at the event, which was attended by a number of prominent politicians, religious figures and celebrities. Among the day’s speakers were Cardinal Timothy Dalton, NFL tight end Benjamin Watson and Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway.
But the event’s most noteworthy headliner was newly inaugurated Vice President Mike Pence. In his 10-minute speech, the former Indiana governor delivered an optimistic message for pro-life Americans and became the first sitting vice president to ever speak at the March for Life.
“Life is winning again in America,” Vice President Pence told the audience. “[And] it is no more evident in any way, than in the historic election of a President ... who I proudly say, stands for a right to life — President Donald Trump.”
Wharton sophomore Eric Hoover watched the event live on television. Last semester, Hoover founded Quakers for Life, a pro-life student group at Penn. He said he felt encouraged by what Pence and Conway’s speeches meant for his group, and optimistic about the new administration’s stance on abortion.
“[Quakers for Life is] very grateful that the Vice President and, it seems, the President are supporting the pro-life cause.” Hoover said. “It’s obviously a great help to us and what we’re doing ... We just hope [President Trump] follows through on policy.”
In his speech, Pence pledged to defund national organizations that sponsor abortions, such as Planned Parenthood, and vowed that Trump would appoint a pro-life nominee to fill the vacancy left by late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
“I like to say that over there at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., we’re in the promise-keeping business,” Pence said.
Penn Association for Gender Equity’s political chair and College sophomore Jamie Ye referred to the earlier statement PAGE had made about Quakers for Life when asked for comment about the March for Life.
“Basically nothing has changed, like we said [in the statement], these people are within their constitutional rights to organize and we just don’t agree with them,” she said. “We stand in solidarity with anyone who feels personally affected or traumatized by something happening like this march because people can have a very personal relationship with this issue.”
Since his term began on Friday, 1968 Wharton graduate and President Trump has already taken action on abortion policy. On Monday Trump reintroduced the W. Bush administration’s “Mexico City Policy,” a presidential memorandum withdrawing funds from non-governmental organizations that perform abortions. Trump expressed support for Friday’s events via Twitter.
Conway also affirmed the new White House’s commitment to the issue in her speech, and reiterated the theme that pro-life advocates should feel hopeful.
“This is a new day, a new dawn, for life.” Conway said. “Steps away from here, in the White House, a president and a vice president sit at their desks and make decisions for a nation. As they sit there, they stand here with [the pro-life movement].”
While Hoover acknowledges the pro-choice stances of many Penn students, he said he hopes events like Friday’s March for Life pushes students to recognize the diversity of opinions that exists on the issue of abortion.
“Its not to say that every single American holds [pro-life] values, of course not. America is very, very divided on [abortion].” Hoover said. “But not everyone thinks the way that the Penn culture at large does. And I think the March for Life is a powerful testament to that.”