Republican President Donald Trump gave himself kudos on Friday for his work restricting reproductive rights and for being the first sitting president to address the Values Voter Summit, a conference hosted by the vehemently anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council (FRC).
While introducing the president, FRC President Tony Perkins—whose organization is a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group—praised Trump for following through on his campaign promises. “As a candidate, he promised to restore the sanctity of life and protect the unborn. What has he done? Within 72 hours of taking office, he not only reinstated the Mexico City Policy to protect U.S. taxpayers from funding abortion, but he expanded it,” Perkins said.
“He promised to stop the social experimentation of our nation’s military, which left it depleted and demoralized. And what has he done? He has had the courage and the conviction to keep his campaign promises and do just that,” Perkins continued, seemingly referring to the administration’s efforts to ban transgender troops from serving in the military.
Perkins was a member of Trump’s anti-choice advisory council during the 2016 presidential election, which worked to “drive the campaign’s pro-life message out to each individual voter.” He has a record of aiding extremist anti-choice groups.
Trump also gave himself accolades during his summit speech for reinstating the so-called global gag rule, which prohibits foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from receiving U.S. family planning aid if they provide abortions or information about the medical procedure. When Trump revived the anti-choice restriction, he expanded the Reagan-era policy by applying it to $8.8 billion in global health funding and endangered George W. Bush’s previously spared President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, according to Slate.
The president said he was “honored and thrilled” to address the day’s conference.
When Trump took to the stage, he referenced the Little Sisters of the Poor’s fight against the birth control benefit and seemingly alluded to his administration’s regulatory blow to the 62.4 million cisgender women and untold number of transgender and gender nonconforming people who rely on it.
The Little Sisters, Trump said, “were going through hell.”
The summit started off with GOP Reps. Vicky Hartzler (MO), Mike Johnson (LA), and Mark Walker (NC) talking about “winning the Hill.” The lawmakers collectively touted the Trump administration’s recent actions at the expense of reproductive health care and LGBTQ equality.
Hartzler, who served on the so-called Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and took part in Trump’s “Pro-Life” advisory coalition, is an increasingly vocal opponent of abortion and transgender rights. She used her Values Voter Summit platform to lambaste the birth control benefit, which the administration reversed to almost immediate legal challenges a week ago. A key player in the GOP’s quest to ban transgender service members, Hartzler took the opportunity to reiterate her office’s falsely inflated numbers for gender-confirming health care costs in the military.
At the summit, Hartzler and others called for an end to the Senate’s 60-vote threshold for most controversial legislation to advance across the Capitol. The rule is the only legislative barrier holding back a nationwide unscientific and unconstitutional 20-week abortion ban, which passed the House in September and could get a vote in the Senate in the coming weeks or months.
So far, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) hasn’t given into appeals from conservative House Republicans and Trump to end the 60-vote rule. But McConnell’s continued opposition isn’t a given. Just this week, the majority leader attempted to end the Senate’s “blue slip” rule—Democrats’ “last tool,” as TPM described, to block Trump’s extremist judicial nominations.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), chair of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, touted Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to a U.S. Supreme Court seat and the religious right’s takeover of the judiciary branch, thanks to Trump’s nominations to the federal bench, during his address. Trump early on in his speech name-checked Gorsuch for the crowd. Gorsuch will be a key vote in an upcoming Supreme Court case deciding if businesses can refuse to serve LGBTQ people. Hartzler referred to the case in her remarks as well.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway also took the stage Friday morning. Financial disclosure forms revealed this spring that Conway consulted for the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), an anti-choice front group that released Planned Parenthood smear videos.
“I am pro-life, I am very proudly pro-life,” Conway told the crowd, noting that the president had sent her and Vice President Mike Pence to the March for Life earlier this year. “I’ve been working on pro-life messaging for decades, literally,” she said, going on to praise Trump’s performance when it came to abortion during presidential debates.