The president reaffirmed his commitment to abortion rights, even urging continued efforts to protect those rights for "our daughters." The White House issued his statement Jan. 22, the date in 1973 on which the Supreme Court issued companion decisions -- Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton -- that struck down all state abortion restrictions and effectively legalized the procedure for any reason throughout pregnancy.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of pro-lifers joined together Jan. 23 for the annual March for Life that followed a weekend of pro-life events in the Washington area. The march drew its usually immense crowd in spite of intermittent rain and a temperature in the mid-30s. Young people, especially teenagers, dominated the march.
"Every year the crowd gets younger," said Barrett Duke, vice president of public policy for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Duke joined in the march, which stretched along the National Mall to the Supreme Court.
"There was probably only one gray head for every 40 or 50, maybe more, this year," said Duke, whose first March for Life came in 2004. "I've watched that change every year I've been in the marches, and this year was utterly astonishing to me. Not only are the young people there -- elementary grade kids, high school kids, college kids -- but they're there with a vibrancy, just an excitement about them being part of a movement that is about saving innocent human life. They're singing; they're chanting; they're doing calls back and forth to each other. One of them was: 'I love babies, yes I do, I love babies, how 'bout you?'"
He said, "I saw what almost certainly could be described as an emerging pro-life culture among young people in this country."
Duke said he has "no doubt that we are going to see Roe versus Wade overturned in this country."
Young people "will change the culture in this country, and they will be part of a movement that will rein in abortion on demand," he said.
Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., one of Congress' leading pro-life advocates, said preventing Obama from winning re-election in November was vital.
"The past three years of abortion extremism by President Obama is a mere foretaste -- a mere foreshadowing -- of what will be if he is re-elected," Smith told marchers, according to prepared remarks. "Given four more years, Mr. Obama will further pack the courts -- including and especially the U.S. Supreme Court -- with litmus-tested pro-abortion judges perched to retain the infamous holdings of Roe.
"Unhindered and unfettered by any concern over a future election, Mr. Obama will aggressively use the coercive power of the state to compel abortion conformity and complicity," Smith said. "The predictable consequence: more dead babies, more wounded moms."
Citing Obama's intention to call for a "return to American values" in his State of the Union speech the next night, Smith said, "Mr. President, abortion is not, never was and never will be an American value."
The National Right to Life Committee, one of the country's leading pro-life organizations, announced Jan. 23 its political action committee's top priority for the year "is defeating Barack Obama and electing a pro-life president."
With the aid of a Democratic Senate, Obama has opposed pro-life legislation approved by the House of Representatives. His administration has:
-- enacted health-care reform that permits federal funds to subsidize insurance plans that cover abortion.
-- restored grants to a United Nations organization that supports China's coercive population control program.
-- approved money for stem cell research that destroys human embryos.
-- ordered religious employers to pay for coverage of contraceptives that can cause abortions even if to do so would conflict with their consciences.
-- nominated two Supreme Court justices who, both sides of the debate agree, likely would uphold Roe.
In his Jan. 22 statement, Obama said:
"As we mark the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we must remember that this Supreme Court decision not only protects a woman's health and reproductive freedom, but also affirms a broader principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman's right to choose and this fundamental constitutional right. While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue, no matter what our views, we must stay united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant woman and mothers, reduce the need for abortion, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption. And as we remember this historic anniversary, we must also continue our efforts to ensure that our daughters have the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams."
It was the first time in three years the president expressed a determination to "reduce the need for abortion." After doing so in 2009, Obama dropped the comment the following two years in his Jan. 22 affirmation of abortion rights.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.
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