AILSA CHANG, HOST:
President Trump spoke today in person at the March for Life rally in Washington, D.C., an annual gathering of abortion rights opponents. Trump is the first sitting president to do so.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House.
CHANG: NPR's Sarah McCammon was at the march and joins us now.
SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Hi, Alisa.
CHANG: So what was President Trump's message today?
MCCAMMON: Well, he was there to rally his base. I mean, he went after Democrats, painted them as extreme on the abortion issue. And he reminded opponents of abortion rights who were gathered there of what he's done for them, that he's cut family planning funds to groups that provide abortions and named conservative judges to the federal courts. And without explicitly talking about the impeachment trial or the 2020 election, he portrayed the current political battles that are underway in Washington and around the country as really a fight between good and evil.
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TRUMP: They're coming after me because I am fighting for you. And we are fighting for those who have no voice. And we will win because we know how to win.
MCCAMMON: And later, at least one prominent activist on the stage today explicitly praised Trump's record on abortion and told the crowd that what they do in November will have important consequences.
CHANG: So give us a sense of what people in the crowd made of the first time a president has ever shown up at this rally.
MCCAMMON: I mean, this is a largely friendly crowd for him...
MCCAMMON: ...At a time when he can use a friendly crowd. There were big cheers for the president, also for Vice President Mike Pence, who sent a video message with his wife Karen that was shot right in front of the Vatican, where he's met with the pope. And pretty much everyone I spoke to at the March for Life said they were really pleased with President Trump's record even if they may not always like everything he does.
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ERMIDA AROCHO: He's a little rough around the edges, but he stands for the things that I believe in. And that's why I voted for him.
CHUCK CALDWELL: As a person, he has some faults. As a president, he's doing a great job.
JUNE MATSON: Whether he was pro-life before or not, it doesn't really matter because he has continued to prove that he will vote pro-life.
MCCAMMON: That was Ermida Arocho of Chicago, Chuck Caldwell (ph) from Ohio, June Matson from Colorado. And that's really in line with what I've heard from so many social conservatives, really back to the 2016 campaign.
CHANG: OK. So as you say, the president sort of ticked off all the things that his administration has done to support anti-abortion rights activists. Today there was another move along those lines regarding California. Explain what happened there.
MCCAMMON: Right. It seemed timed to the March for Life. The Department of Health and Human Services told the state of California today that a law requiring insurance companies to include abortion coverage in all health care plans violates federal law, gave the state 30 days to rescind it. In response, California's attorney general said on Twitter that the president is, quote, "sowing division for cheap political gain" and vowed to fight that.
CHANG: OK, so it's clear that abortion is a key political issue for many of Trump's base voters, and the president sees abortion rights opponents as an important part of his base. What else do they want to see President Trump do if he does win a second term?
MCCAMMON: Well, the activists I've talked to say they really want more of the same - more of these policies, more judges. The next president, everyone on both sides is well aware, may get to choose another Supreme Court justice, so both sides are watching that. And reproductive rights activists tell me they're also feeling motivated. They point to a lot of activism and a lot of success in the 2018 midterms and also a handful of elections in 2019 around the issue of abortion rights. So that'll certainly play out again this year.
CHANG: That's NPR's Sarah McCammon.
Thank you, Sarah.
MCCAMMON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.