Trump has also introduced plans to reduce the number of refugees coming to the United States, temporarily banning entry to people from a handful of war-torn countries. He has promised to deport an even greater number of immigrants than President Obama and support the repeal of his predecessor’s signature health-care bill. These might not seem like “pro-life” issues. But for many in the movement, Trump’s actions present a fundamental tension: While they celebrate his apparent seriousness about limiting abortion, they don’t necessarily support his other policies that threaten life after birth.
On Thursday evening, thousands gathered at a pro-life prayer vigil at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the towering Roman Catholic basilica in Northeast Washington, D.C.* New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan gave the homily, speaking on the connection between immigrants and abortion. “Today, refugees and immigrants continue to believe that this nation is still a sanctuary, as they arrive with relief and thanksgiving,” he said. “We pray they are never let down!” Their struggle, he said, is the same struggle as that of children in the womb. “We come together this evening ... to reclaim the belief of nature and super-nature that a mother’s womb is the primal sanctuary,” he said.
When asked what obligation pro-life people have to speak out for the lives of immigrants and refugees, Dolan said, “A lot. And they do.” But at the same time, “they’re also very practical, and they’re very strategic,” he said. “We want to protect all human life: the immigrant, our grandmothers who are dying, people who are starving. ... What is the greatest danger today? When you look at the numbers of the babies whose lives are terminated in the womb, you’ll say, “‘Uh oh. There’s our priority.’”
Other groups seem to share this sense that abortion trumps other issues. Focus on the Family, an advocacy group founded by the conservative Christian leader James Dobson, “helps condition the environment for what people in public policy view as the most important issues to evangelical Christians,” said Tim Goeglein, the former Bush administration official who serves as the organization’s vice president of external relations. While the group co-sponsored an event called Evangelicals for Life in Washington on Thursday before the March, they haven’t held similar events or rallies to support robust health care for families, expansion of family medical leave or maternity and paternity leave, or government support for poor mothers.
“We tend to look to the private sector more than government to engage with that, although helping families in need is important for government to do,” said Jim Daly, Focus on the Family’s president. “We’re more comfortable in [the] arena” on issues directly related to abortion, he said, but “there’s not quite the same energy and openness” on issues like government support for needy families. While the group has prioritized public advocacy against abortion, Daly claimed it hasn’t taken up other issues because of frustrations with bureaucracy. “You can push and push on the government side, but oftentimes, little change occurs,” he said. But now, change is happening—at least on abortion. “We’ve been encouraged by what the administration has done thus far in the first week … because of the things we care about,” he said.