WASHINGTON – Pledging to build a culture that respects life, President Bush is declaring a National Sanctity of Human Life Day.
"As we seek to improve quality of life, overcome illness and promote vital medical research, my administration will continue to honor our country's founding ideals of equal dignity and equal rights for every American," Bush said Tuesday in a document that enacts no change in policy or program.
"By working together to protect the weak, the imperfect and the unwanted, we affirm a culture of hope and help ensure a brighter future for all."
The president heralded the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act he signed last year, which amends the legal definitions of "person," "human being," "child" and "individual" to include any fetus that survives an abortion procedure.
Bush also underscored his administration's efforts to champion "compassionate alternatives" to abortion, such as promoting maternity group homes, encouraging abstinence and adoption and passing parental-notification and waiting-period laws.
But the president also stopped short of condemning abortion -- or the cause of abortion rights activists -- outright, using only the veiled language of the anti-abortion movement.
"Every child is a priority and a blessing and I believe that all should be welcomed in life and protected by law," he said. "Through ethical policies and the compassion of Americas, we will continue to build a culture that respects life."
He proclaimed this Sunday as National Sanctity of Human Life Day, urging Americans to mark the occasion at home or in places of worship, to help others in need and to "reaffirm our commitment to respecting the life and dignity of every human being."
The six-paragraph document was enthusiastically received by anti-abortion activists, who said it precisely summarized the philosophy behind their movement.
"This is exactly where we're at," said Darla St. Martin, associate executive director of National Right to Life. "It helps people to understand our cause. It helps people to understand why we are working so hard to defend unborn children."
The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League said the president "clearly wants the federal government in doctor's offices making personal decisions that should be left to women and their doctors."
"A majority of Americans believe that women should have the right to choose and that decision should be between a woman and her doctor," the group said in a statement.