Trump administration will make anti-abortion policies a top priority, VP Mike Pence vows

Vice-President Mike Pence tells a crowd gathered in Washington for the annual March for Life rally that ending taxpayer-funded abortion and choosing a Supreme Court justice who will uphold "God-given" liberties are among top priorities of the Trump administration.

U.S. vice-president and White House adviser Kellyanne Conway attend March for Life rally in Washington

U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence, left, wife Karen Pence, centre, and their daughter Charlotte Pence arrive for a rally on the National Mall before the start of the 43rd annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. Pence said ending taxpayer-funded abortion is a top priority for the Trump administration. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence told a crowd gathered Friday in Washington for the annual March for Life rally that ending taxpayer-funded abortion and choosing a Supreme Court justice who will uphold "God-given" liberties are among top priorities of the Trump administration.

"Life is winning again in America," Pence told the demonstrators on the National Mall, near where Trump was sworn in a week ago before hundreds of thousands.

One of U.S. President Donald Trump's first official acts after taking office a week ago was to sign an executive order banning U.S. aid to foreign groups that provide abortions. Pence said more such action would continue.

Trump will "work with the Congress to end taxpayer funding of abortion and abortion providers, and we will devote those resources to health-care services for women across America," said Pence to the crowd gathered near the Washington Monument.

Vice-President Mike Pence: 'end taxpayer funding of abortion'

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Vice-President Mike Pence: 'end taxpayer funding of abortion'

The vice-president also accused the U.S. Supreme Court, in its landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, of having "turned away from these timeless ideals."

Pence said Trump would be nominating a Supreme Court justice next week who "will uphold the God-given liberties enshrined in our Constitution."

The March for Life, held each year in Washington to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, welcomed Pence as one of its biggest-name speakers in years.

Organizers of the rally Friday of abortion opponents said neither a president nor a vice-president has ever addressed the event, which is in its 44th year, in person.

'New dawn for life'

One of Trump's top advisers, Kellyanne Conway, also spoke to the National Mall gathering.

Before Pence spoke, Conway called the Trump administration "a new day, a new dawn for life."

She also told the crowd Trump and Pence have plans to take "decisive actions" that "will further this conversation and this cause."

Kellyanne Conway: 'decisive actions' that 'will further this conversation and this cause'

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Kellyanne Conway: 'decisive actions' that 'will further this conversation and this cause'

Abortion rights supporters say cutting off funding for abortion providers will prevent poor women from getting other critical heath care and birth control that could prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Trump: 'You have my full support'

Trump tweeted his "full support" for the rally, calling it "so imporant."

In Congress, Republican majorities in both chambers are vowing to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provided more than a third of the nation's abortions in 2014. They also hope to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Trump has pledged to sign both measures if they reach his desk.

Less than a year ago, with Barack Obama's second term winding down, things were markedly different. The Supreme Court struck down Texas's strict regulations on abortion clinics as interfering with a woman's constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy. And with polls at the time suggesting Hillary Clinton would likely defeat Trump, abortion opponents worried about an era of liberal majorities on the court.

"The horizon looked bleak for the pro-life movement," said Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life.

Anti-abortion advocates gather at the Washington Monument to hear U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence speak at the March for Life rally. It marked the first time in the event's 44 years that a vice-president has attended. (Tasos Katopodis/AFP/Getty Images)

Mancini suggested that many voters chose Trump largely because he pledged to appoint a Supreme Court justice who shared their views on abortion, even if they disagreed with him on other issues.

"I don't identify as a Republican or a Democrat but I do vote pro-life," Mancini said.

Decrease in abortions

Abortion opponents also were heartened by a recent study that found the number of abortions in the United States dropped under one million in 2014, the lowest total in 40 years. The report by the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, credited increased access to birth control but also a surge in abortion restrictions in many states.

Americans remain deeply divided on abortion.

The latest Gallup survey, released last spring, found that 47 per cent of Americans described themselves as pro-choice and 46 per cent as pro-life. It also found that 79 per cent believed abortion should be legal in either some or all circumstances.

A woman holds a pro-choice sign during the Women's March on Jan. 21 in Los Angeles. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said that poll shows why abortion-rights supporters shouldn't despair. She also said Republicans were taking actions that would result in more illegal abortions and deaths of pregnant women.

"The vast majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade and support the legal right to abortion," Hogue said.

Friday's march comes less than a week after one of the largest mass demonstrations in the city's history, the Women's March on Washington, which drew more than half a million people opposed to Trump on issues including abortion.

With files from CBC News and Reuters