Bush urges pro-lifers to 'be strong'
WASHINGTON (BP)--President Bush encouraged pro-life Americans to "take heart" and "be strong" on the 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court's legalization of abortion.
The president welcomed defenders of unborn children to breakfast at the White House Jan. 22. A few hours later, many of the White House guests participated with tens of thousands of other pro-lifers in the annual March for Life.
At the breakfast, Bush described for the guests the "glimmerings of a new America on a far shore."
"This America is rooted in our belief that in a civilized society, the strong protect the weak," the president said. "This America is nurtured by people like you, who speak up for the weak and the innocent. This America is the destiny of a people whose founding document speaks of the right to life that is a gift of our Creator, not a grant of the state."
He urged the White House audience to "take comfort" that the minds of Americans "are open to persuasion. And our history shows that a cause rooted in human dignity and appealing to the best instincts of the American people cannot fail."
Pro-lifers were encouraged by the Jan. 17 report that showed the number of annual abortions in the United States had dropped to its lowest total in three decades, Bush said. The study by the Guttmacher Institute found there were 1.21 million abortions in 2005, the smallest annual total since 1.18 million were performed in 1976. Yet, the study showed more than 20 percent of all pregnancies result in abortions, the president said.
"America is better than this, so we will continue to work for a culture of life where a woman with an unplanned pregnancy knows there are caring people who will support her, where a pregnant teen can carry her child and complete her education, where the dignity of both the mother and child is honored and cherished," Bush said.
The president's comments were "very stirring and inspirational," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Land attended the breakfast, as did Barrett Duke, the ERLC's vice president for public policy.
Land said it was especially encouraging "to see the number of people who were at the White House event who were young, people under 35, which reinforces the impression I have every time I go to a pro-life gathering these days. The pro-life movement is strongly populated by younger people.
"I was delighted to find, for instance, that the hotel where I stayed last night in downtown Washington was literally overrun with young people, particularly high school and college age young women, who were there from all parts of the country to participate in the March for Life," Land said. "That bodes well for the future of the pro-life movement."
Young people made up much of the March for Life on its route from the National Mall to the Supreme Court building. The march has been held every year since 1974 to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the lead decision in a pair of rulings that struck down all state bans on abortion.
The occasion brought declarations of advocacy for and opposition to abortion in Congress.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D.-Calif., called Roe a "cornerstone" of women's reproductive rights, saying in it the high court "recognized that a woman has the power and fundamental right to choose what happens to her body and, by extension, her future."
"I will continue to fight for the right to choose ...," Pelosi said in a written statement.
Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., a congressional pro-life leader, said on the House floor, according to a transcript provided by his office, "Someday future generations of Americans will look back on us and wonder how and why such a rich and seemingly enlightened society, so blessed and endowed with the capacity to protect and enhance vulnerable human life, could have instead so aggressively promoted death to children and the exploitation of women by abortion both here and overseas."
Bush issued a proclamation declaring Jan. 20 as National Sanctity of Human Life Day. The Southern Baptist Convention, as well as many evangelical Christian churches and the Roman Catholic Church, observed Jan. 20 as Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.
It is estimated that at least 45 million babies, and maybe closer to 50 million, have been aborted legally in the United States in the last 35 years.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.