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Protesters Gather in US Capital to Denounce Legalized Abortion - 2004-01-22

President Bush has promised to fight to change the nation's abortion laws. Mr. Bush spoke to thousands of anti-abortion activists in Washington Thursday on the 31st anniversary of the Supreme Court decision legalizing the procedure.

Speaking to the marchers by telephone from New Mexico, Mr. Bush said a culture of life has been built in the United States over the last three years.

"The right to life does not come from government, it comes from the creator of life," he said. "We must continue with civility and respect to remind our fellow citizens that all life is sacred and worthy of protection."

Mr. Bush reminded the crowd that he has signed several new laws he says protect unborn children, including a ban on the procedure opponents refer to as partial birth abortion.

"This administration is vigorously defending this law against those who would seek to overturn it in the courts," he said. "This is the way we will build a lasting culture of life - a compassionate society in which every child is born into a loving family and protected by law."

The 1973 Supreme Court decision known as Roe v. Wade gave women the right to legal and safe abortion in the United States. Medical authorities estimate that 44 million women have undergone the procedure since then. Some anti-abortion marchers, such as Luana Stoltenberg of Iowa, say they regret their decision.

"I've had three abortions and abortions devastated my life," she said. "Because of those three abortions, I'm unable to have children today. Abortion hurts women. You're not helping them, you're hurting them."

The marchers walked from the White House to the Supreme Court, where they met a handful of counter-demonstrators who support a woman's right to choose. They included Rebecca O'Donnell of Maryland, who says the Roe v. Wade decision is not just about abortion and must never be overturned.

"It's about a woman's control over her body, about her choices, about her privacy and it dictates that women have a relationship between a doctor that is sacred," she said.

Anti-abortion activists say they hope to elect what they call a pro-life Congress in the November election, hoping that would lead to appointing a pro-life Supreme Court.