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On 36th anniversary, Obama reaffirms support for Roe

WASHINGTON (BP)–President Obama reaffirmed his support for abortion rights on the 36th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling.

In a written statement released two days after his inauguration, Obama said Jan. 22 he remains “committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose.” The anniversary reminds Americans the 1973 Supreme Court opinion “not only protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters,” he said.

The president issued his declaration of support for abortion rights on a day when tens of thousands of pro-life advocates gathered in Washington for the annual March for Life. Young people made up much of the crowd, which rallied on the National Mall before walking up Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court building. The march has been held every year since 1974 to mark the anniversary of Roe, the lead decision in a pair of rulings that struck down all state bans on abortion and legalized the practice throughout all stages of pregnancy.

Obama’s statement contrasted markedly with one issued seven days before by the outgoing president. In a proclamation declaring Jan. 18 as National Sanctity of Human Life Day, George W. Bush said every human life “is a gift from our Creator that is sacred, unique and worthy of protection.”

The United States “recognizes that each person, including every person waiting to be born, has a special place and purpose in this world,” Bush said. He cited in the proclamation some policies his administration had enacted in order to establish “a culture of life.”

“[W]e aspire to build a society in which every child is welcome in life and protected in law,” Bush said.

In his Jan. 22 statement, Obama said of abortion, “While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue, no matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion and support women and families in the choices they make.” He called for “common ground” in expanding access to “affordable contraception, accurate health information and preventative services.”

Obama is expected to rescind by executive order or support legislative efforts to reverse several pro-life measures supported by Bush.

At the March for Life, Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., warned participants that the “most extreme pro-abortion agenda in American history” is “waiting in the wings.”

If only part of the agenda expected of Obama succeeds, he will be recalled as the “abortion president,” said Smith, probably the leading pro-life advocate in Congress.

“Despite this present darkness, be encouraged,” Smith told marchers, according to a text provided by his office. “Be strong. Be brave. For the Scripture tells us the Lord our God is with you. Continue to pray, fast and to work hard. Joyfully embrace the noble challenge set before us to defend the most vulnerable. For in time, we will prevail and overcome the injustice of America’s culture of death.”

Michael New, a University of Alabama political science professor whose research has shown state restrictions have helped reduce the number of abortions, said in a Jan. 22 column that pro-lifers have “plenty of reasons to be optimistic.”

In a piece written for National Review Online, New cited state laws requiring such policies as informed consent and parental involvement, the growth of student organizations, increased outreach to women with crisis pregnancies, and the improvement and expansion in ultrasound technology among reasons the number of abortions has declined by 22 percent since 1990, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Pro-lifers “should take heart,” New said. “Despite the setbacks, we have made real progress.”
Compiled by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode.

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