President Bush has addressed tens of thousands of anti-abortion activists who have gathered in the nation's capital. VOA's Michael Bowman reports from the White House, Monday's annual "Right to Life" demonstration marked the 34th anniversary of a contentious Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion across the country.
President Bush noted that the U.S. Declaration of Independence cites "life" as the first of three fundamental, universal rights of humanity. He said the concept remains relevant today.
"We believe that every human life has value, and we pray for the day when every child is welcomed into life and protected by law," the president said.
President Bush was speaking by telephone from Camp David. His remarks were played over loudspeakers to activists assembled on the Capitol Mall. Smaller rallies were held in other U.S. cities.
Mr. Bush noted that he has taken steps to promote adoption as an alternative to abortion, supported parental notification laws for minors seeking abortions, and opposed a procedure known as "partial birth" abortion.
He said his goal is to promote what he terms a "culture of life" that includes safeguards for the unborn, including restrictions on the use of fetal tissue for medical research.
Anti-abortion, or pro-life activists, have long sought to overturn the landmark 1973 "Roe versus Wade" Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in the United States. They have been heartened by the fact that President Bush has named two new Supreme Court justices in his second term, both of whom are believed to be critical of the original Supreme Court ruling on abortion.
Many abortion rights defenders, meanwhile, cheered last year's elections in which Democrats took control of both houses of Congress. While the previous Republican congressional leadership was pro-life, the current Democratic leadership is solidly pro-choice.
Abortion rights groups held counter-demonstrations outside the Supreme Court and elsewhere in the city. In a statement, a leading pro-choice group called on President Bush to abandon attempts to criminalize abortion and focus instead on practical ways to reduce unwanted pregnancies.
More than a million abortions are performed annually in the United States. Polls show many Americans have serious misgivings about abortion, but a majority does not favor an outright ban on the procedure.