At the March for Life, Trump parroted right-wing media lies about abortion to rile up his base

Image of Donald Trump in front of pro-choice signs

Citation Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

As the Senate continues impeachment proceedings for President Donald Trump, he became the first president to speak in person at the anti-abortion March for Life rally. While in previous years, Trump had delivered remarks via satellite or video recording during the rally, his in-person appearance was the latest opportunity for the president and his administration to repeat anti-abortion lies created and amplified by right-wing media to generate outrage before the 2020 election.

During his January 24 speech, Trump repeated several anti-abortion lies, alleging that “Democrats have embraced the most radical and extreme positions” by promoting “taxpayer-funded abortion all the way up until the moment of birth” and advocating for state laws that would “allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb right up until delivery.” In addition, Trump falsely claimed that Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s comments on a state bill to expand abortion access meant he wanted to “execute a baby after birth,” and he said that “Senate Democrats even blocked legislation that would give medical care to babies who survive attempted abortions.”

Trump’s repetition of these talking points is unsurprising: Fox News and other right-wing media outlets have primed audiences to accept this outrageous misinformation. Fox News has spent the last year fearmongering and amplifying the lie that Democratic policies promoting abortion access amount to “infanticide,” when those policies are actually aimed at protecting or expanding access in line with Roe v. Wade.

Trump, his administration, and his reelection team have adopted these Fox News talking points to make the “infanticide” narrative and the charge that Democrats are “extreme” on abortion central tenets of the 2020 campaign. In 2019, Trump repeated these lies during his State of the Union address, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, before the U.N. General Assembly, and in his standard stump speech at multiple campaign rallies. That pattern appears to be continuing into 2020. Unsurprisingly, right-wing media outlets have continued to amplify these talking points, calling Democratic candidates “extreme” on abortion as part of their playbook to animate supporters for the 2020 election.

Anti-abortion misinformation is one of the primary means for the right-wing media and Trump administration echo chamber to rile up this conservative base. As a result, anti-abortion and right-wing media frequently tout Trump’s attacks on abortion access, sometimes relying on Trump administration figures to be the mouthpiece for these lies. Before Trump’s speech, acting Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget Russ Vought even published a piece for The Daily Wire proclaiming Trump to be “the most pro-life president in history.” Vought and other Trump administration officials, including Alex Azar, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Roger Severino, the director of the HHS Office for Civil Rights, spoke or are scheduled to speak at events related to the March for Life this year.

Additionally, the anti-abortion organization Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) made Trump and his speech a central theme of its March for Life messaging:

It’s no wonder SBA List and Trump would engage in this mutually beneficial exchange. The group developed close ties to Trump during the 2016 election -- a relationship that has only grown stronger over time as his anti-abortion rhetoric has become more brazen and extreme. SBA List recently announced its “largest election-year spend so far,” with $52 million being spent to reelect Trump and Senate Republicans. SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser was also announced as the head of Trump’s “Pro-Life Voices for Trump” coalition for his reelection campaign.