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U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Southern Baptist, addresses March for Life rally

WASHINGTON, D.C. (BP) – Addressing a crowd he called “a beautiful picture of America,” U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson laid out his philosophy for the American pro-life movement in a speech at a rally just prior to the 51st annual March for Life Jan. 19.

The event, which marks the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s now-overturned Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide, drew thousands of people from around the country, who braved cold temperatures and falling snow to march under the theme “With Every Woman, For Every Child.”

Johnson was the first sitting speaker of the House to attend the event since Paul Ryan addressed marchers in 2018. Johnson was one of several Southern Baptists featured at this year’s rally, including Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford and Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Southern California, who also addressed the crowd.

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission also had several representatives among the marchers. (See related story.)

The sanctity of human life is an idea that is embedded in the nation’s founding documents, Johnson told rallygoers.

“It was the great British statesman, G.K. Chesterton, who famously observed that America is the only nation in the world that was founded upon a creed,” Johnson said. “And he said it was listed with theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence.”

Calling the Declaration of Independence the nation’s “birth certificate,” Johnson recounted its assurances of people’s rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as “endowed by their Creator.”

“From the very beginning …, our founders boldly proclaim those self-evident truths that our rights do not come from government. Our rights come from God, our Creator.”

“Every single person has inestimable dignity and value,” he said. “And your value is not related in any way to the color of your skin or what zip code you live in, how good you are in sports, where you went to high school. It’s irrelevant. Your value is inherent because it is given to you by your Creator.

“Our national creed is the essence of who we are in this country. It is the foundational principle that made us the freest, most successful, most powerful, most benevolent nation in the history of the world.”

Johnson then told the crowd that he himself is the result of an unplanned pregnancy.

“In January of 1972, exactly one year before Roe v. Wade, my parents, who were just teenagers at the time, chose life,” he said. “And I’m very profoundly grateful that they did.”

Johnson urged attendees to help build a culture that encourages mothers to choose life the way his mother did.

“This is a critical time to help all moms who are facing unplanned pregnancies,” he said, “to work with foster children and to help families who are adopting, to volunteer and assist our vital pregnancy resource centers and our maternity homes.

“And to reach out a renewed hand of compassion and to speak the truth in love. That’s what we do.”

Government also has a role to play, and Johnson mentioned two pro-life acts passed in Congress this week – the Pregnancy Student’s Rights Act and the Supporting Pregnancy and Parenting Women and Families Act.

He then warned the crowd that the Biden Administration is proposing a regulation that would restrict funds for pregnancy resource centers.

“We know those are the centers that states rely on to as assist expecting moms and dads,” he said. “And that action would undercut that important work.” Johnson said a proposed bill would prevent the new regulation from taking effect.

“We’re passing these bills and we’re marching today because it takes a lot of work to convince people that every single human child, every unborn child, has a value that is too profound and precious to ignore,” he said. “And we have every reason to be optimistic, my friends, that we can change public opinion.

“We find encouragement from the leaders of previous generations. We can learn from the great Americans who changed public opinion throughout our history. Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas and Susan B. Anthony, they challenged the prevailing narratives of their day and they succeeded.

“And you know how they did that? … Their success was grounded in our nation’s creed that we just spoke about. And they reminded their fellow Americans about our founding principles. … Let’s be encouraged. Let’s press on in hope and that we can join together and make this great difference. I believe that we can, we can stand with every woman for every child, and we can truly build a culture that cherishes and protects life.”