WASHINGTON ― Vice President Mike Pence told a gathering of anti-abortion protesters Friday that they can expect President Donald Trump to name a Supreme Court nominee next week ― and that it will be someone with a strong conservative record.
“President Donald Trump will announce a Supreme Court nominee who will uphold the God-given liberties enshrined in our Constitution in the tradition of the late and great Justice Antonin Scalia,” Pence said at the annual March for Life rally. Pence is the first sitting vice president to address the event.
Pence did not explicitly say that the nominee will favor overturning the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade, but the crowd still cheered his announcement.
There’s deep skepticism within factions of the conservative community about whether Trump will nominate a Supreme Court justice committed to anti-abortion values. Trump himself has held varying positions on abortion throughout his life, although he now says he is “pro-life” and will name a similarly minded Supreme Court justice.
Andrew Schlafly, son of the late conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, recently sent a letter to Trump ― signed by other conservative leaders ― urging him to nominate someone who is explicitly committed to the anti-abortion cause. Schlafly has already expressed concerns about some of the names being floated as Trump’s choice, potentially setting up a conflict if the president goes with one of them.
Eugene Delgaudio, an anti-abortion activist who attended Friday’s march, told The Huffington Post that he has his reservations with some of the names on Trump’s short list ― especially William Pryor, a Georgia appeals court judge Delgaudio said is not fully supportive of their cause.
“Our focus is to stop Pryor ... and to help with the promotion of a family values judge,” Delgaudio said. On his organization’s website, social media and YouTube videos, Delgaudio has been sounding the alarm about Pryor.
An early frontrunner to replace Scalia, Pryor, 54, has strong backing from movement conservatives and Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Justice, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). In recent days, his star has been fading in the face of two other contenders, federal appeals judges Neil Gorsuch and Thomas Hardiman.
“I think people are going to love it. I think evangelicals, Christians, will love my pick,” Trump told the Christian Broadcasting Network on Friday, when asked about his upcoming Supreme Court choice. He said nothing about whether views on abortion will influence his decision.
Trump needs 60 votes in the Senate for his nominee to be confirmed, meaning he needs the backing of some Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) recently said he will fight any nominee who is “out of the mainstream” ― and a big test of that will be where he or she stands on Roe v. Wade.
“They have to follow the law,” Schumer said in an interview with The Huffington Post. “For instance, Roe v. Wade has been the law for a long time. If these people want to just repeal and rip out Roe v. Wade ― you have to look at the whole picture. I’m not going to have a litmus test. But that would be an indication.”
Trump has been solidly anti-abortion in his first week in office. One of his first acts was reinstating the Mexico City policy ― also known as the global gag rule ― that bans U.S. funding for international health organizations that counsel women on family planning options that include abortion.
The House also passed a bill that would make permanent the Hyde Amendment, which denies abortion coverage in health insurance plans for women on Medicaid, military servicewomen, federal employees, residents of the District of Columbia, women in federal prisons, and women covered by the Indian Health Service.
On Friday, Pence told the March for Life attendees that the administration fully backed that push.
“That’s why this administration will work with the Congress to end taxpayer funding of abortion and abortion providers, and we will devote those resources to health care services for women across America,” Pence said.
The administration also wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which made it illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage to women because they are pregnant or may become pregnant.
This article has been updated to include Trump’s comment.
Cristian Farias reported from New York.
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