President Trump became the first sitting president in U.S. history to address the anti-abortion March for Life rally on Friday via a live video feed. While it signaled his administration's steadfast position on reproductive rights, the president botched a part of his remarks that left some scratching their heads. Trump told March for Life attendees it's "wrong" to allow a baby to be "born" from the mother's womb in the ninth month.
"Right now, a number of state laws allow a baby to be born from his or her mother’s womb in the ninth month," Trump said. "It is wrong. It has to change." What he meant to say, according to his prepared remarks, was that it's wrong to let babies be "torn" from a mother's womb, in reference to late-term abortion. (Late-term abortion is a medically inaccurate term that groups together any abortion procedure that takes place after the first trimester. The term is misleading since it can imply that all fetuses past the first trimester are viable outside the womb when it is not always true.)
That flub did not go unnoticed by those who tuned in to the speech. Many people on Twitter were either confused or taken aback by the mistake, since that one word changed the meaning of the sentence entirely.
Despite the blunder, the president's speech made his stance on the debate over reproductive rights clear. That he even took time to address the rally in a video call — the first sitting president to ever do so, as Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush spoke at other rallies by phone — showed that his administration is making anti-abortion values a priority.
Anti-abortion advocates have organized annual marches in Washington, D.C. since 1974, one year after the Supreme Court effectively legalized abortion in the landmark Roe v. Wade case. According to its website, the March for Life's mission is "to provide all Americans with a place to testify to the beauty of life and the dignity of each human person."
Trump is not the first politician to address the rally; top Republicans have done so for years. Last year, Vice President Mike Pence, who is an avowed anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ lawmaker, became the highest-ranking administration official to ever speak at the rally. This year, House Speaker Paul Ryan will also speak at the March for Life.
But devoting the time to acknowledge the March for Life gives heightened visibility to the movement, and it's part of the administration's push to place restrictions on safe and legal abortion across the country. During his speech on Friday, Trump said that he is pushing the Senate to pass legislation that would outlaw abortions past 20 weeks. That bill, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, passed the House on a party-line vote, but it's unlikely to pass the Senate.
"Under my administration, we will always defend the very first right in the Declaration of Independence, and that is the right to life," he told the crowd.
Critics often remark on Trump's past views on abortion rights. Before he entered politics, Trump indicated that he supported a woman's right to safe and legal abortion, but at the start of his 2016 presidential run, his views changed, and he even went so far as to say that women who have abortions should be punished.
He later walked back on that statement and said that only the doctor or the provider should be punished.
On Thursday night at a March for Life reception at the White House, Pence called Trump "the most pro-life president in American history."
As president, Trump has nominated a score of anti-abortion judges to federal courts, and made policy decisions that would restrict access to abortions for women in the United States and abroad. The administration shows no signs of slowing down its push for anti-abortion policies.