President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he would become the first U.S. leader to attend the March for Life, one of the nation’s largest anti-abortion protests, in person later this week.
The announcement came the same day the Senate began hearing opening arguments in the president’s impeachment trial. Trump touted the surprise appearance on Twitter, sharing images from last year’s event.
“He will be the first president in history to attend and we are so excited for him to experience in person how passionate our marchers are about life and protecting the unborn,” Jeanne Mancini, the president of March for Life, said in a statement Wednesday. “From the appointment of pro-life judges and federal workers, to cutting taxpayer funding for abortions here and abroad, to calling for an end to late-term abortions, President Trump and his Administration have been consistent champions for life and their support for the March for Life has been unwavering.”
The move is likely to be seen as an attempt by the president to appeal to his evangelical base at a time of fierce political turmoil.
Trump’s overtures to his anti-abortion supporters have already paid dividends to his reelection campaign. The Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion political action group, said this month it would spend up to $52 million supporting Trump and like-minded Republicans this year.
The New York Times noted that no other president has attended the March for Life, despite his political beliefs. Trump has championed himself as “very pro-choice” yet addressed the protest via a video message in 2018 and hosted some of the marchers at the White House.
The timing of the announcement prompted a backlash from groups that support a woman’s right to choose. Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said Trump’s decision was “a desperate attempt to divert attention from his criminal presidency and fire up his radical base.”
Planned Parenthood Action also lambasted the policies of the Trump White House, saying that “since day one, the Trump-Pence admin has sought to undermine our access to health care, including safe, legal abortion.”
“But the 77% of us who support that access will have our say in November,” the group wrote on Twitter. “Let’s make sure that next year, he’s there as a private citizen.”
Tuesday marked the 47th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, which established the right to abortion across the U.S.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.