Trump

President Donald Trump speaks during the annual "March for Life" rally on the National Mall, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — Louisiana Democratic state Sen. Katrina Jackson and first lady Donna Edwards took the same stage as President Donald Trump and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise to speak to the thousands of abortion opponents who joined the March for Life on Friday.

“It’s so important to let people know everywhere that the fight for life doesn’t have a partisan stance to it," Jackson, D-Monroe, said during her second consecutive appearance at the annual anti-abortion. “In Louisiana, the majority of Democrats who are elected are pro-lifers.”

This week marked the anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Trump is the first sitting president to ever address the March for Life.

“I’m truly proud to stand with you,” Trump said. “We are fighting for those who have no voice.”

Thousands of people, bundled up in coats and scarves – several of them wearing Trump’s signature red Make American Great Again baseball caps — cheered and waved signs, including one that read “Make Unborn Babies Great Again.”

Jackson led the crowd in a series of call-back chants about why attendees fight against abortion.

“We know in unity we must fight like we’ve never fought before," she said.

Jackson is in her first Senate term after serving eight years in the state House. She’s the author of a 2014 Louisiana law that would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and could ultimately play a major role on the abortion debate in the United States.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear in March arguments over whether the law should be allowed to take effect — the first major abortion case since Trump appointed two conservative justices to the high court.

“I tell people all the time that this decade will mark the major fight for life," Jackson said. “I see us celebrating life like never before.”

Americans United for Life, an anti-abortion group, this week ranked Louisiana as the “most pro-life state” because of laws passed in 2019 and the upcoming Supreme Court case.

“The fact that through the efforts of pro-life advocacy in the state of Louisiana, the United States Supreme Court is set to speak to the life issue for the first time in years is to be strongly commended,” AUL CEO Catherine Glenn Foster said in a news release.

Some prominent Louisiana Democrats have spoken out against abortion restrictions.

State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, who chairs the Louisiana Democratic Party and is vice chair of the Democratic National Convention, lambasted Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Friday for comments comparing abortion to slavery.

"What an insult to the generations of Americans who still live with the scars of slavery and Jim Crow," said Peterson, of New Orleans. "What an insult to those who have fought valiantly to make abortion safe and legal in all 50 states."

Opponents of the law before the Supreme Court say that it unnecessarily threatens access to abortion in states like Louisiana, which has three clinics that terminate pregnancies.

"States have figured out how to shut down clinics and create endless barriers and delays for women," Nancy Northup, CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement marking the anniversary of Roe. "Disappointingly, we find ourselves back at the Supreme Court this term challenging a Louisiana law designed to shut down clinics."

About 10,000 abortions are performed in Louisiana each year.

If the court rules in favor of the 2014 Louisiana law, doctors who terminate pregnancies would be required to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. It would be one of the most restrictive active abortion laws in the country, and a reversal of a previous high court ruling on a similar Texas law.

U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-Madisonville, this week proposed a federal law that would go even furrther than the Louisiana law. It would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital located within 15 miles.

Speaking at Friday's rally, Scalise, the No. 2 Republican in the House who has been a close ally of the president, compared Trump’s attendance at the March for Life to then-President Barack Obama addressing Planned Parenthood’s national conference in 2014.

“Don’t tell me elections don’t matter,” Scalise said. “You know what’s at stake.”

Louisiana currently bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and requires a 24-hour waiting period between first consultation and when a pregnancy can be terminated. The state Legislature has passed laws that would restrict abortion to 15 weeks of pregnancy or to when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, about six weeks of pregnancy. Both of those laws, which were signed by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, would go into effect only if similar laws in Mississippi survive legal challenges.

First lady Donna Edwards also addressed Friday's crowd to cheers.

“Pro-life is pro-woman," she said. “Life is precious in every stage and should be respected and protected.”

A report released in the fall found that, nationally, abortion has been on a steady decline in recent years.

There were about 862,000 abortions in 2017, according to the Guttmacher Institute, the only entity that counts abortions throughout the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s federal data doesn’t include California, Maryland or New Hampshire.

Guttmacher counted 926,000 abortions in 2014, and more than 1 million in 2011.

Email Elizabeth Crisp at ecrisp@theadvocate.com and follow on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.