In a gathering which observers say showed Donald Trump’s deeply emotional response to the pro-life cause, the president met with an abortion survivor and a child who was born after just 20 weeks of gestation. Trump then urged thousands of pro-life supporters Thursday to pressure Congress to pass a federal law to protect babies who survive abortions.
The president and his White House staff met with Melissa Ohden, who survived a saline solution abortion in 1977, and Micah Pickering, a 6-year-old child who was born in the 20th week of pregnancy but survived, during a White House meeting to promote the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (also known as the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act).
Following the meeting, Trump spoke on a conference call with about 4,000 pro-life supporters in which he not only called for the passage of the legislation but stressed the stark differences between his administration’s policies and the pro-late-term-abortion stances of Democrats running for president in 2020.
Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King Jr., and one of Trump’s closest spiritual advisers, also participated in the event.
“The president is truly pro-life. There has been so much speculation since the  primaries about whether his heart is true or not. I can say walking out of that Oval Office today that this is a deeply-held and sincere conviction,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life lobbying organization Susan B. Anthony List, told reporters after the meeting Thursday.
Trump’s passion for the cause is evident in his confrontation of a leading Democrat. Trump made headlines after he confronted Democrat Sen. Chris Coons of Deleware about abortion at a dinner the night before the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this month. “He saw a Democrat in the room, a Democrat who’s known to be a person of faith, and he was like, ‘Why aren’t you speaking out about this?’” a source familiar with the exchange told Politico.
Unlike many previous presidents, President Trump takes the issue personally and has made it a central focus of his administration though the media has often ignored his groundbreaking pro-life efforts.
“It would be difficult to understand why someone would invite all these people and want to get to know them if it wasn’t a sincere conviction. Yes, it is a politically smart move that he has made in advancing human rights in this way. But it is also the right thing to do.”
Dannenfelser, who served as the chair of the Trump 2016 campaign’s pro-life coalition, briefed the president prior to the meeting and conference call. With thousands on the call, Dannenfelser assured that participants were from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds.
“This is a call that he rarely does. He doesn’t do these conference calls very often,” she said. “But he is clearly taking advantage of an important moment in trying to get legislation looked at in the Senate and the House. He is demanding that this is brought to his desk so he could sign it.”
The call comes as the topic of late-term abortion has been all over the news in the recent weeks with the passage of a New York law allowing abortion until birth and the introduction of similar bills in states like Virginia, Vermont and New Mexico.
The call also comes as Democrats in the House of Representatives have supported in previous congresses the Women’s Health Protection Act, which according to Dannenfelser, is the “federal version of the bill that passed in New York” and would outlaw state bans on third-trimester abortions.
“If you look at every Democrat in the Senate that is speculating or has announced that they are going to run for president [in 2020], every single one of them … have all co-sponsored this bill,” Dannenfelser said.
As for the Born-Alive Abortion Survivor Protection Act, there is optimism from pro-life activists that the bill introduced this session by Nebraska Republican Ben Sasse could have success in the Republican-controlled Senate. Dannenfelser believes that there will be a vote on the bill “soon” in the Senate.
The bill would amend the federal criminal code to require that medical professionals ensure that children born alive after an attempted abortion are given the same care as any other human being and that they are admitted to a hospital.
Tim Head, executive director of the evangelical grassroots organization Faith & Freedom Coalition, was one of the pro-life supporters on the call with the president.
“I think there is a really good chance that [the bill] will come out of the Senate and I think that is going to provide for many awkward conversations in the U.S. House delegation for Democrats later on this summer and fall,” Head said.
While some are hoping to get enough signatures on a discharge petition to force a vote in the Democrat-controlled House, Dannenfelser explained that getting any pro-life legislation to pass with the current makeup in Congress “will be close to impossible.”
Head felt the same way.
“I would be surprised if the U.S. House would have much stomach to take up a bill like this,” Head explained. “If we can get something out of the Senate, I actually think it would be a really great point of pressure for the liberal members of the U.S. House to have to explain why they don’t want to take a vote on infanticide.”
Dannenfelser wondered at what point late-term abortion issues will drive a “wedge” in the Democratic Party. She said that the party needs to return to an era where Democrat lawmakers are “allowed to vote their conscience” and not face consequences for it in the following election.
“Having worked for a pro-life Democrat in the House of Representatives, I can say they use to be the party of the little guy and one that would never turn their back on the littlest and most vulnerable among us. But now, we are living in a different era,” Dannenfelser stressed. “The modern-day Democrats [support] abortion-on-demand up until the point of birth. It is not the old Democratic Party. They have inadvertently provided a contrast.”
During the State of the Union address last week, Trump called on Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb. Such legislation is referred to as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
“There could be no greater contrast to the beautiful image of a mother holding her infant child than the chilling displays our Nation saw in recent days,” Trump said during the speech. “Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth. These are living, feeling, beautiful babies who will never get the chance to share their love and dreams with the world. And then, we had the case of the Governor of Virginia where he basically stated he would execute a baby after birth.”
According to Head, Trump also mentioned the New York and Virginia cases in Thursday’s call with supporters.