Trump Rallies Conservatives With Promise Of More Abortion Curbs

The president, who just unveiled new restrictions on abortion services, sought the support of anti-abortion activists at Susan B. Anthony List's annual gala.

President Donald Trump urged attendees at a Tuesday night gala for a top anti-abortion organization to vote in November, issuing a stern warning about what might happen if they don’t.

“If Democrats gained power, they will try to reverse these incredible gains, these are historic gains,” Trump told the audience at Susan B. Anthony List’s annual Campaign for Life event, referring to the strides made by his administration to defund abortion providers like Planned Parenthood and generally limit abortion services in the U.S. 

“Every day between now and November we must work together to elect more lawmakers who share our values, cherish our heritage, and proudly stand for life,” Trump said.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Trump administration formally unveiled a proposal to restrict federal funding to family planning programs that provide or refer patients for abortions. 

The president extolled the new rule.

“For decades, American taxpayers have been wrongfully forced to subsidize the abortion industry through Title X federal funding, so today we have kept another promise,” Trump said to a cheering crowd. “My administration has proposed a new rule to prohibit Title X funding from going to any clinic that performs abortions.” 

Under the new policy, there must be a “physical and financial separation” between groups that receive funds disbursed under Title X ― the only federal program dedicated solely to funding family planning and reproductive health services ― and “programs in which abortion is presented or provided as a method of family planning.” 

The rule would prevent organizations like Planned Parenthood from getting Title X funding to cover non-abortion services like birth control or cancer screenings. As The New York Times notes, it would also prevent doctors from advising women about where they could go to receive an abortion.

Planned Parenthood lambasted the new policy as a “nationwide gag rule.” 

“This is one of the largest-scale and most dangerous attacks we’ve seen on women’s rights and reproductive health care in this country. This policy is straight out of the Handmaid’s Tale — yet, it’s taking effect in America in 2018,” Dawn Leguens, the group’s executive vice president, said in a statement referencing the dystopian Margaret Atwood novel and Hulu series in which women are forced into reproductive servitude.

Since taking office, Trump ― together with Vice President Mike Pence ― has stridently pushed an anti-abortion agenda. 

On his first full day as president, Trump reinstated the Mexico City policy, often referred to as the “global gag rule,” which blocks foreign non-governmental organizations that perform or promote abortion from accessing U.S. federal funds. In April 2017, his administration repealed an Obama-era law that barred states from defunding organizations that provide abortions.

Trump has not always opposed abortion rights. In 1999, he told NBC News that he was “very pro-choice.” On the campaign trail, however, Trump said his stance on the issue had “evolved.” 

As NPR noted, his flip-flop initially was a red flag for anti-abortion groups like Susan B. Anthony List. 

Marjorie Dannenfelser, the group’s president, was among several conservative women who urged voters in Iowa in 2016 to support “anyone but Trump,” warning that he could not be trusted on abortion.  

But at the gala on Tuesday, Dannenfelser had nothing but praise for Trump, calling him the “most pro-life president in history.” 

She also urged attendees to vote for anti-abortion Republicans in November, saying a “pro-life Senate” would “have a fighting chance to … overturn that great stain on our national conscience, Roe v. Wade.”

Trump ― who, according to CNN, is the first sitting president to address the Campaign for Life gala ― echoed this sentiment in his speech, telling attendees to “vote for life.” 

“Your vote in 2018 is every bit as important as your vote in 2016,” he said, reading from prepared remarks before veering off-script.

“I’m not sure I really believe that ... I don’t know who the hell wrote that line,” he joked. “But it’s still important, remember.” 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story indicated “The Handmaid’s Tale” is a Netflix show instead of a Hulu show.