One year after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, former President Donald J. Trump reminded a gathering of evangelical activists in the nation’s capital how he had shaped the court’s conservative supermajority that ended nearly 50 years of constitutional protections for abortion.
Appearing at a Faith & Freedom Coalition gala in Washington on Saturday night, he cited his appointment of three of the six justices who voted to strike down the law as a capstone of his presidency. And he cast himself as an unflinching crusader for the Christian right in a meandering speech that lasted nearly 90 minutes.
“No president has ever fought for Christians as hard as I have,” he said, adding, “I got it done, and nobody thought it was even a possibility.”
It was the eighth appearance by Mr. Trump in front of the group, whose support he is seeking to consolidate in a crowded G.OP. competition for the 2024 nomination, though he is the front-runner in the field. He said that Republican voters were skeptical of claims by some of his rivals that they were stronger opponents of abortion, and suggested that the skepticism had arisen on the campaign trail.
“A woman stood up and said, ‘This guy ended Roe v. Wade. How the hell can you go against him?’” Mr. Trump said, without mentioning the candidate or setting.
A few thousand activists gave Mr. Trump an ovation when he mentioned the ruling, which he said gave conservatives leverage in the ongoing battle over abortion rights. Several hundred more filled an overflow room.
“You have power for the first time,” he said.
Virtually all of Mr. Trump’s rivals in the crowded G.O.P. field appeared during the group’s three-day Road to Majority conference at the Washington Hilton. The lineup included Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, Mr. Trump’s chief rival, and former Vice President Mike Pence, Mr. Trump’s onetime running mate.
At a rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial earlier on Saturday commemorating the court’s ruling, Mr. Pence urged anti-abortion activists to continue fighting to place further restrictions on the procedure at the state level.
“Save the babies, and we will save America,” he said, adding, “As the old book says, that many more are with us than are with them.”
In a speech at the gathering a day earlier, Mr. Pence called on the entire 2024 Republican presidential field to pledge support for a national abortion ban at 15 weeks — a ban more extreme than what Mr. Trump has backed so far.
David Porter, 64, a Republican from Newport News, Va., who wore a “Walk With Jesus” hat to the rally, commended Mr. Trump for his imprint on the judiciary.
“He’s my guy right now,” he said.
Several times in his speech on Saturday night, Mr. Trump sought to align himself with the faith community and said that it was under attack, much like he was.
“Together, we’re warriors in a righteous crusade to stop the arsonists, the atheists, globalists and the Marxists,” he said.
Each indictment, he added, was a “great badge of courage.”
“I’m being indicted for you,” he said.
Mr. Trump’s alliance with the Christian right is a study in political opportunism, one that has yielded prodigious dividends for both.
In 2016, evangelical voters helped propel Mr. Trump to successive Republican primary victories in South Carolina and other key states, giving him a pathway to the nomination and ultimately the presidency.
The influential electoral bloc demonstrated its willingness to look beyond the impieties of the twice-divorced Mr. Trump, whose extramarital affairs had long been tabloid fodder and who came with a history of supporting abortion rights in the 1990s. Evangelical voters bought into Mr. Trump’s populist narrative, as well as his pledges to carry out a hard-line reset of the nation’s immigration and trade policies and to appoint “pro-life” justices.
The group collected its returns during Mr. Trump’s presidency when he cemented a supermajority on the Supreme Court.
Mr. Trump has heralded his remake of the nation’s highest court as he once again seeks the support of evangelical voters, this time beset by a cascade of indictments, including one in a hush-money case involving a porn star.
But even as Mr. Trump has highlighted his role in the right’s fight to end abortion rights, he has repeatedly sidestepped questions about whether he would sign a federal abortion ban if Republicans managed to steer one through the divided Congress.
Mr. Porter, the anti-abortion activist from Virginia, said Mr. Trump’s evasiveness was concerning.
“Either you stand for what you believe in or you don’t,” he said.
Mr. DeSantis, who spoke on Friday at the evangelical conclave, has sought to stake out the right flank against Mr. Trump on abortion policy. He criticized the former president for suggesting that a six-week abortion ban that Mr. DeSantis signed in Florida was “too harsh.”
Susan Migliore, an anti-abortion activist from Falls Church, Va., who said she was religious but not evangelical, said at the Lincoln Memorial rally that she was grateful for Mr. Trump’s court picks, but had not decided which candidate she will support in 2024.
Neil Vigdor covers political news for The Times. @gettinviggy • Facebook
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