Vice President Michael Pence declared "life is winning again in America" in his historic appearance Jan. 27 before a massive March for Life crowd that included a contingent of Southern Baptists attending the Evangelicals for Life conference.
Sworn in as vice president only a week before, Pence became the first person holding that office to speak in person at the March for Life in its 44-year history. No president has ever appeared at the annual event.
Pence's appearance—as well as promises and actions by the new Trump administration—seemed to provide a heightened level of optimism among the marchers. President Trump had signed an executive order Jan. 23 to reinstate a ban on federal funds for international organizations that perform or promote abortions overseas. He also had promised during the election campaign to work to defund Planned Parenthood and to enact a permanent, governmentwide ban on federal funding of abortions, something the House of Representatives voted to do Jan. 24. Trump also is expected to announce a pro-life nominee to the Supreme Court Jan. 31.
Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore said he again was honored to march with pro-life Americans and urged evangelical Christians to become more involved in the event.
"This is an important moment each year for advocates of human dignity, and our gathering this year sent another message to Washington and beyond that unborn life matters," said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "I'm thankful for this generation's stand for life, and my prayer is that what this march stands for will soon not be known as a movement, but as a consensus."
Moore told Baptist Press in written comments, "It's imperative for evangelical Christians to be part of this march. We are, after all, committed to the Good News of everlasting life. We should march to show that every life has dignity and also that Jesus offers forgiveness for every sin, freely offered to everyone, no matter what he or she has done."
Roman Catholics have been the main force behind and the primary participants in the March for Life since its beginning in 1974, one year after the Supreme Court legalized abortion throughout the country in the Roe v. Wade decision Jan. 22, 1973. The ERLC and Focus on the Family have sought to increase evangelical participation in the march the last two years, co-hosting the three-day Evangelicals for Life conference around the event and making time in the schedule for attendees to take part in the march.
A Southern Baptist first-time participant in the March for Life also expressed a desire for more evangelicals to be involved.
Brenda Richards, an Evangelicals for Life attendee and a member of Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C., said she had not previously realized Catholics "have been carrying the torch for [the march] and putting it in the public eye, and it made me just appreciate the fact that they've been standing in the gap all these years. And it also made me want to encourage more of us in the evangelical world to come along beside them in this area in a stronger way."
Her first March for Life was "very special, especially because I felt a lot of enthusiasm and excitement, feeling like the tide may have turned because as a nation [we have] become more pro-life focused now," Richards told BP.
In his speech at the pre-march rally, Pence told the crowd gathered on the grounds of the Washington Monument, "[B]ecause of all of you, and the many thousands that stand with us in marches like this all across the nation, life is winning again in America."
Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, also spoke of the hope among pro-life Americans.
"This is a new day, a new dawn for life," she said at the March for Life rally, adding it is "a time of incredible promise" for the pro-life movement.
Pence urged pro-lifers to be compassionate toward all Americans.
"We have come to an historic moment in the cause for life, and we must meet this moment with respect and compassion for every American," said Pence, a former congressman and a former governor of Indiana.
He quoted a Bible verse in encouraging the pro-life movement to demonstrate "respect for the dignity and worth of every person."
"[A]s it is written, 'Let your gentleness be evident to all,'" Pence said, quoting Phil. 4:5. "Let this movement be known for love, not anger. Let this movement be known for compassion, not confrontation. When it comes to matters of the heart, there is nothing stronger than gentleness.
"I believe that we will continue to win the hearts and minds of the rising generation if our hearts first break for young mothers and their unborn children, and if we, each of us, do all we can to meet them where they are with generosity, not judgment," he said.
Eric Metaxas, evangelical author and radio talk-show host, said at the rally, "[W]e pray that this message of love and forgiveness would get out to the women of America—that the God of the Bible and everyone who follows Him loves those women who have made this tragic choice and want to extend the love of Jesus to those women."
He also decried the ruling that legalized abortion.
"Roe v. Wade is fake law," Metaxas told an often-cheering crowd.
"Roe v. Wade is anti-science," he said. "The science today more and more and more and more . . . says that is a person in the womb."
Also speaking at the rally were three Republican members of Congress -- Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Reps. Mia Love of Utah and Chris Smith of New Jersey. Many other congressional members also appeared on the stage as they spoke.
Other speakers included Baltimore Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson and former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson, who was accompanied by others who have left the abortion business.
After the rally, the crowd—which may have numbered in the hundreds of thousands—marched on Constitution Avenue from the Washington Monument to the Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill.