“Mrs. Conway makes clear that her appearance at the Jan. 27 March for Life is not just a matter of a White House official addressing an key interest group. She marched herself in her younger days, she says. For this mother of four, the marchers are like family.” William McGurn
“Mrs. Conway argues that abortion was one of the ‘bright-line’ differences between her candidate [Donald J. Trump] and Hillary Clinton, who was the candidate of the Planned Parenthood view: taxpayer-funded abortion without limits.” Ibid
Kellyanne Conway and the Life of Her Party
William McGurn, The Wall Street Journal, January 17, 2017, p. A 17
Kellyanne Conway has just upended another Washington convention.
She did so when she agreed to speak at the annual March for-Life, one week after Donald Trump is sworn in as president.
With this one gesture, Mrs. Conway steals some thunder from the celebrity-heavy
Women’s March on Washington, scheduled for the day after Mr. Trump’s inauguration-She focuses attention on big changes ahead for abortion policy. She challenges the feminist trope that to be a woman is to be pro-choice.
Above all, she guarantees coverage of a march the press would prefer to ignore, and gets the New York Times to report that, having “made history” as “the first woman to manage a successful presidential campaign/’ Mrs. Conway, will now make history again, as “the first sitting White House official to address the annual march in person.”
Reached by phone Sunday, Mrs. Conway makes clear that her appearance at the Jan. 27 March for Life is not just a matter of a White House official addressing an key interest group. She marched herself in her younger days, she says. For this mother of four, the marchers are like family.
“I consider myself a member of the pro-life rank-and-file,” she says. “Just one of the tens of millions of Americans who fear the cavalier way innocent human life is treated today.”
Each January, no matter how frozen, tens of thousands of ordinary Americans pack themselves into buses to come to Washington to march in protest of Roe v. Wade, the January 1973 Supreme -Court decision that ushered in a constitutional right to abortion never mentioned in the Constitution. Each year the press mostly ignores them.
During the campaign, Donald Trump’s pro-life bona fides were challenged after a 1999 “Meet the Press” clip surfaced in which he’d called himself “very pro-choice” and said’he would not outlaw partial-birth abortion. Then again, as governor of California Ronald Reagan signed the most permissive abortion law in the land, and George H.W. Bush started out pro-choice until his own change of heart.
Mr. Trump has said he changed his owri mind after seeing a married couple he knew fight over abortion during a pregnancy—and getting to know the “magnificent person” who came into this world because they rejected it For her part, Mrs. Conway says Mr. Trump told her he was pro-life way back in 2011.
During the campaign, pro-lifers were ridiculed for supporting Mr. Trump. Now the tables have turned. Mr. Trump’s pledges to defund Planned Parenthood, to work to restrict abortions after 20 weeks, and to make the Hyde Amendment’s ban on federal funding permanent, says Mrs. Conway; means those coming to march this year do so with “hopeful hearts.”
There’s also Mr. Trump’s campaign promise to nominate “pro-life justices to the U.S. Supreme Court/ beginning1 with the man or woman who will take Aritonin Scalia’s seat; Justice Scalia, of course, would never have described himself as a “pro-life justice” because he deemed his personal views on issues irrelevant to his job of upholding what the Constitution and the law actually says.
As it happens, Justice Scalia is also on record expressing his distaste for the whole idea of a march on the Sumpreme Court, which he viewed as an effort to force justices to bow to popular opinion rather than the law. In his dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), he went on to lay the blame for this pressure where it belonged: on a Supreme Court that effectively legislated the personal preferences of its unelected justices into law, destroying the possibility of democratic politics by taking the issue away from the people acting through their representatives.
So long as the court is in the business of imposing values, Mr. Scalia concluded, a democratic people “should demonstrate, to protest that we do not implement their values instead of ours.”
One does not have to share Kellyanne Conway’s views on abortion to appreciate how corrupting Roe has been for democratic politics: Plenty of honest, pro-choice constitutional experts abhor Roe on precisely the grounds Scalia outlined. It’s also true that the Scalia replacement does not immediately threaten Roe. But Mr. Trump will likely get to fill more than one Supreme Court seat over his term, which will become interesting if the seat is vacated by a justice from the pro-Roe majority.
In the meantime, Mrs. Conway argues that abortion was one of the “bright-line” differences between her candidate and Hillary Clinton, who was the candidate of the Planned Parenthood view: taxpayer-funded abortion without limits. As her acceptance of a speaking slot at the March for Life indicates, on abortion Kellyanne Conway and Donald Trump are doing what they have done on so many other issues: defying convention and changing the terms of debate.
“Donald Trump is happy to have the conversation on abortion,” Mrs. Conway says. “But he wants the conversation on the sanctity of ljfe and just who the real extremists are here.”
Write to McGurn@wsj.com