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Anti-Abortion Activist Wants Trump To Recommit To Campaign Pledges


America's biggest anti-abortion rally, the March for Life, takes place today in Washington, D.C. Donald Trump is set to become the first sitting president to address the annual event. Trump appealed to anti-abortion supporters in the lead-up to the election, to activists like Kristan Hawkins, who heads Students for Life America (ph). Hers is a group that spreads anti-abortion messages on college campuses. I talked with Hawkins recently and asked her what she wants to hear from President Trump today.

KRISTAN HAWKINS: I would like to hear him reiterate some of the promises he made in the campaign of signing into law a bill to defund Planned Parenthood, signing into law a bill that will ban taxpayer dollars from funding abortions. He's already upheld his promises in appointing pro-life, anti-abortion judges - and Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court was a huge victory for our movement.

So it'd be nice to hear him recommit to that, say he's going to push the Senate to actually get these votes done. There's been several pieces of legislation that have been passed by the House that are really just waiting for the Senate to take action on.

MARTIN: So you're pleased with his first year because, as you note, he made several campaign promises that have not come to fruition. And even the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the court - he's known to be a conservative, but he has no voting record on abortion. So it's not a done deal as to whether or not he would uphold Roe v. Wade or not, if that were to come up.

HAWKINS: The pro-life movement is very pleased by the appointment of Neil Gorsuch. The judges that have been, you know, announced by President Trump as on his short list for future Supreme Court appointments have been vetted. Everyone has said it's a good list for this movement.

Personnel is policy. You can't walk, you know, 5 feet within the Department of Health and Human Services without running into a pro-lifer. That's a big deal. For someone who really wasn't pro-life before he ran for office - and for a lot of us in the pro-life movement who were unsure whether or not he would actually live up to his promises, I've been pleasantly surprised by what he's done.

MARTIN: But the specific campaign promises - permanently banning federal money for abortion, overturning Roe v. Wade, defunding Planned Parenthood...


MARTIN: ...None of this has transpired.

HAWKINS: That's right - and because everything's being held up in the Senate. And that's really where the focus...

MARTIN: So you blame Congress, not the president.

HAWKINS: Oh, yes. I think especially those in the Senate, you know, who were elected with President Trump in the 2016 election - they knew what they were promising to the pro-life community. And we've been very disappointed with the actions of the Senate. Defunding Planned Parenthood should have happened the first month of a Trump presidency.

MARTIN: Who specifically on the Hill - what lawmakers should be moving your issue and are not?

HAWKINS: Well, we need Leader McConnell to schedule votes. That's a huge issue. We also need the Senate to work more than two days a week. That would be helpful because we should be advancing pro-life legislation every single month because we have the majority. Senators Collins and Murkowski - they continuously are the holdup when we talk about Obamacare repeal and replace, which is a significant piece of legislation for the pro-life movement because of all the funding Obamacare has in it for Planned Parenthood.

MARTIN: You are a religious person. You're a Catholic now. That means - I assume - that your position on abortion is a direct outgrowth from your faith. So by that count, how do you, as a Christian, reconcile your support and praise for Donald Trump and his position on abortion with his own moral failings? I mean...


MARTIN: ...How he talked about grabbing women by the genitals, recent allegations of infidelity with a porn star - how do you reconcile these two things?

HAWKINS: This is a question that a lot of us grappled with during the election. But I think that when we think about voting for candidates and, you know - we're never gonna have a perfect candidate.

I mean, we are all sinners. And the way I look at it is President Trump's a sinner. I'm a sinner. Every politician is a sinner. And when I'm voting for a politician, I'm not voting to endorse what they've done in their life or the sins that they've committed. I pray that they've, you know, sought forgiveness for those sins. I'm voting for my issue. I'm voting to advance that issue.

MARTIN: Kristan Hawkins is the president of the anti-abortion group Students for Life America. She joined us in our studios here in Washington.

Kristan, thanks so much.

HAWKINS: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.