March for Life
People gather in the National Mall in Washington D.C. at the March for Life and listen to President Donald Trump speak on his pro-life position. (Brooklyn Wayland / Gaylord News)

WASHINGTON — Thousands gathered on the National Mall on Friday to participate in the March for Life, which for the first time in history was attended by a sitting U.S. president.

President Donald Trump kicked off the pro-life march with a 13-minute speech of support.

“We’re here for a very simple reason: to defend the right of every child — born and unborn — to fulfill their God-given potential,” Trump said. “For 47 years, Americans of all backgrounds have traveled from across the country to stand for life, and today, as president of the United States, I am truly proud to stand with you.”

Gaylord NewsThis story was reported by Gaylord News, a Washington reporting project of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma.

The March for Life crowd was filled with people of varying ages and backgrounds who oppose abortion. Among the thousands in attendance, Oklahoma was represented. 

Isabella Bullard, a senior at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, said she is on a semester-long internship in her home state of Oklahoma. Passionate about the cause, she used social media to raise enough money to fly herself from Oklahoma to Washington so she could be present for the march.  

“Just seeing so many people come out and stand up for something they believe in and are truly passionate about is just so encouraging,” Bullard said. “It makes me just want to be with the people that also support it and just be encouraged to keep fighting the good fight.”

According to the Guttmacher Institute for Population Research Innovation and Dissemination, the abortion rate from 2014-17 declined by 11 percent in the United States. In 2017, 4,780 abortions were provided in Oklahoma, representing 0.6 percent of all abortions in the United States, according to the Guttmacher Center data.

“Not all women are pro-choice,” Bullard said. “To be a woman and [have] every entity to be able to have life grow inside of us, inside of the womb, is beautiful.”

Pam Pollard, vice president of Women for a Great America and former chairwoman of the Republican Party of Oklahoma, did not travel to Washington for the rally but spoke about the topic Thursday.

“I think [the March for Life] is absolutely pro-women,” Pollard said. “It’s pro-women that women value the sanctity of the most precious thing ever given to this planet, and that is life. (…) By a woman being the only one able to produce life and bare the child, I think [March for Life] does promote women, and it shows the importance that women play in understanding the basic functions of us as humans.”

Pollard referenced two measures proposed in Oklahoma during the 2019 legislative session. Since it did not receive a hearing, the controversial SB 13 is eligible for consideration during the upcoming 2020 legislative session, but Pollard said she opposes it. Instead, she said she favors the alternative approach of SB 867, which was also filed in 2019.

“Senate Bill 13 does not challenge Roe v Wade,” Pollard said. “It makes [abortion] illegal in the state of Oklahoma. I think it’s impossible for a state to outlaw something that has already been adjudicated by the federal system. If you don’t like it, let’s change the federal system.” 

Pollard believes Roe v. Wade may be revisited in the near future.  

“I think [abortion] is an incredibly important topic in this next election, because I am hearing people say they feel like the U.S. Supreme Court is more conservative than it has been in the past,” Pollard said. “A lot of people think the ruling of Roe v. Wade was an error and want to have the opportunity to have the ruling reviewed under a more conservative court.” 

Though Pollard believes in a pro-life stance, she said there are some circumstances in which abortion may be necessary.

“I do support that there are times when women, for medical reasons, need to end the life that is in them,” Pollard said. “But that’s for the doctor to know that the fetus, the human, has the potential to kill the mother. I leave that in the doctor’s hands.” 

Pollard said she understands there are some life and death circumstances that can affect a pregnant mother. 

“Me personally, I’m not 100 percent ‘no abortion for no reason,’” she said. “Some people want to define abortion as the ending of a life in all situations. Abortion is also a medical term and a lot of people have made it a political term, so for medical reasons I am not against abortion.” 

Pollard said she respects the decision of people who, for medical reasons must abort their child, but when the term “abortion” is used in a political setting, her stance may change. 

“For political reasons and for someone saying ‘I don’t want this baby,’ to me that is not abortion. Abortion would be a necessary medical [reason],” Pollard said. “Abortion is a medically necessary procedure, murder is anything other than that.”

On Twitter, Republican members of Oklahoma’s federal delegation thanked Trump for his speech at the March for Life. Wednesday, the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City tweeted a photo of about 60 people traveling to the anti-abortion rally.

On Friday, the national Planned Parenthood organization critiqued Trump’s remarks as “lies” via Twitter. The abortion rights and women’s health organization’s Oklahoma chapter retweeted the message, which emphasized: “Abortion is health care.”