The president’s annual state of the union address received a divided response after highlighting life issues. The chamber of the House of Representatives showed a clear divide in the legislature over President Trump’s call for a late-term abortion ban, with pro-life advocates offering their own reactions after the speech.
In the speech, delivered Tuesday evening, Trump encouraged lawmakers to choose “results” over “resistance” while making the traditional call for bipartisan cooperation.
After speaking about his legislative priorities for the coming year, including renewed calls for physical barriers on the southern U.S. border with Mexico and a nation-wide paid family leave program for parents, the president turned to recent abortion legislation at the state level.
“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,” the president said, referencing the passage of the Reproductive Health Act recently passed by the state of New York.
That measure has been the subject of fierce criticism for allowing the possibility of effective abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy.
“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,” said Trump. “These are living, feeling, beautiful babies who will never get the chance to share their love and their dreams with the world.”
The president also referenced recent failed legislation in Virginia which would have allowed for mothers to terminate an unborn child even during labor. Citing the defense of the measure by embattled governor Ralph Northam, Trump called the bill a means to “execute a baby after birth.”
Regarding his own legislative suggestions for Congress, the president called for new laws to ban late-term abortions, saying he wished to see “a culture that cherishes innocent life.”
“Let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: all children -- born and unborn -- are made in the holy image of God.”
“To defend the dignity of every person, I am asking Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb.”
The proposal was greeted with a decidedly mixed reaction by some lawmakers, with Republicans standing in favor of the proposal.
While many Democrats, including a large block of women representatives who sat as a group dressed in white, remained seated with their arms folded, others, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), applauded.
Manchin later told RealClearPolitics that “late term abortions are just horrific...totally just wrong.”
Pro-life advocates were swift to praise the president’s speech.
Tom McClusky, the president of March for Life Action, said in a statement that he was pleased Trump spoke strongly in “condemning the extremist abortion propositions out of New York and Virginia.”
“The American consensus opposes abortion after the first trimester, yet some politicians continue to embrace and perpetuate an unprecedentedly radical pro-abortion agenda,” said McClusky, noting that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) invited Planned Parenthood President Dr. Leana Wen as her guest to the speech.
These politicians are “out of touch with the American people,” said McClusky. “It is time for politicians, regardless of party, to stand up in favor of protecting innocent life."
Ashley McGuire, senior fellow at the Catholic Association, agreed with McClusky, describing the call to end late-term abortions as a “welcome change from the left’s celebration of third-trimester abortions and infanticide.”
While much of the state of the union address appeared to highlight divisions between the two parties, there was considerable applause for the president’s condemnation of anti-Semitism.
“We must never ignore the vile poison of anti-Semitism, or those who spread its venomous creed,” Trump said. “With one voice, we must confront this hatred anywhere and everywhere it occurs.”
Judah Samet, who survived the anti-Semitic terrorist attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in October, attended the speech as a guest of the president. That attack left 11 people dead. Samet is also a survivor of the Holocaust and was imprisoned in a concentration camp.
The president's legislative agenda and his call for increased cooperation will both be tested in the coming weeks. Congress and the president have until Feb. 15 to agree funding arrangements for parts of the federal government in order to avoid another partial shutdown.