WASHINGTON (BP)–The White House gave already optimistic pro-life Americans further reason for hope on the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that birthed their movement.
Speaking by phone to tens of thousands of pro-lifers gathered Jan. 22 near the White House for the annual March for Life, President Bush praised their “devotion to the cause of life” and called on Congress to approve this year a ban on partial-birth abortion, as well as one on all human cloning. On the same day, White House senior adviser Karl Rove said in a speech that both prohibitions rank high on Bush’s agenda, calling them part of “the immediate tasks at hand,” The Washington Post reported.
While Bush had endorsed previously both the partial-birth and comprehensive cloning bans, it had been unclear whether the White House would support such controversial measures early in a new congressional session with only a narrow Republican margin in the Senate.
The boost for pro-lifers came at the completion of three decades of legalized abortion in the United States. On Jan. 22, 1973, the high court voted 7-2 to strike down state abortion laws in its Roe v. Wade opinion. Combined with Roe’s companion decision, Doe v. Bolton, the court’s ruling had the practical effect of granting women the right to abortions for any reason throughout all stages of pregnancy. In the ensuing 30 years, more than 41 million babies have been aborted.
Pro-lifers have observed every Jan. 22 since 1973 with events, such as marches and prayer services, throughout the country. When the many thousands of pro-lifers gathered in Washington this year for the March for Life, they did so with the movement riding a wave of good news.
Republicans, as opposed to the pro-choice Democratic Party, had regained the majority in the Senate and expanded their advantage in the House of Representatives in the November elections. Recent surveys had shown a decline in the number of abortion providers in the country, as well as in public support for the Roe ruling.
Although a majority of Americans still favor Roe, that number has declined 11 percent since the 20th anniversary, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. The survey showed 54 percent now support the decision, while 44 percent oppose it. In 1993, 65 percent endorsed the ruling, while 33 percent opposed it.
Pro-lifers expressed their grief on the anniversary, while also voicing their hope and commitment.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said Americans “are paying a high cost in every area of our culture” for 30 years of “an abortion-on-demand regime” that has devastated millions of women. “We have failed to live up to the commitment made at the birth of our country to the equality, dignity and sanctity of every human being,” Land said.
“Yet, I am hopeful,” he said, pointing to the gains in Congress and polls that show young people are more pro-life than their elders. “We need to pray, live and speak out in such a way as to honor the Creator of all life and to protect those made in his image. With God’s help, we will prevail.”
Bush told the marchers via phone from St. Louis they and he “share a commitment to building a culture of life in America, and we’re making progress.” The president cited enactment of the Born-alive Infants Protection Act last year, as well as his administration’s ban on federal funds for international programs that promote abortion in other countries and its opposition to physician-assisted suicide in Oregon.
“For 30 years, the March for Life has been sustained by constant prayer and abiding hope, that one day every child will be born into a family that loves that child and a nation that protects that child,” Bush said. “And when that day arrives, you will have the gratitude of millions — especially those who know the gift of life because you cared and you kept faith.”
In urging Congress to ban both reproductive and research cloning, Bush said, “We must not create life to destroy life. Human beings are not research material to be used in a cruel and reckless experiment.”
Strong support for research cloning existed in the Senate in the last session. Cloning of embryos for research toward cures of various diseases results in the destruction of the tiny child, however.
The ERLC’s Land expressed gratitude for Bush’s pro-life policies and reiterated his call for quick adoption of bans on partial-birth abortion and all cloning. The partial-birth ban would prohibit a grisly procedure that kills a nearly totally delivered baby normally in the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy.
Bush’s three-minute speech contrasted sharply with those made the previous night by the announced Democratic presidential candidates for 2004. All six — Sens. John Edwards of North Carolina, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut; Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri; former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, and activist Al Sharpton — criticized pro-lifers and endorsed abortion rights at a 30th anniversary celebration for NARAL Pro-choice America in Washington.
Gephardt, a member of Third Baptist Church in St. Louis, acknowledged he was pro-life early in his congressional career before deciding to support abortion rights. “The sanctity of a woman’s right to control her own destiny is a moral force of its own,” he said, according to The Post.
NARAL President Kate Michelman issued a warning to the senators. “I fully expect pro-choice senators to filibuster any [Supreme Court] nominee who does not affirm a woman’s constitutional right to choose,” she said, The Post reported.
In a memorial service for the unborn and their parents Jan. 22, Priests for Life national director Frank Pavone decried Roe, saying the “attempt to make an act of violence legal is no law at all.”
Roe is the “biggest, cruelest hoax” ever perpetrated on women, Pavone told the audience gathered in a Senate office building for the event sponsored by the National Pro-life Religious Council. It failed to give women true choice, he said. Women get abortions “because they feel they have no other choice, no freedom of choice,” Pavone said. “What we are calling on Americans to realize is that you cannot destroy the baby without destroying the woman.”
Among the speakers at the memorial service was actress and model Jennifer O’Neill, who had an abortion as a young woman but became a Christian about 16 years ago and has since become a pro-life advocate. She is the national spokesperson for Silent No More, a campaign that includes about 1,000 women who have had abortions.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: COURT’S TOLL and 1 MILLION-PLUS YEARLY.