Four days before abortion rights activists mark the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade in the name of a woman's right to choose, pro-life supporters spoke out Sunday on behalf of the most vulnerable and weakest members of society.
National Sanctity of Human Life Day, observed each year for the past 25 years, has been a day when "our country recognizes that each person, including every person waiting to be born, has a special place and purpose in this world," noted President Bush in his 2009 proclamation for observation Sunday.
"We also underscore our dedication to heeding this message of conscience by speaking up for the weak and voiceless among us," Bush added in his last proclamation as president.
The annual observance, which falls on the Sunday closest to the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, this year came just days before the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, who some critics fear will be "the most radical pro-abortion president" in U.S. history.
During a gathering last year for Planned Parenthood, Obama declared that the first thing he would do as president would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which would abolish all restrictions and limitations on women in the United States to have an abortion prior to fetal viability, whether at the state or federal level, or after the point of viability when the life of the mother is endangered.
Obama has also been known for his opposition to the Supreme Court ruling to uphold the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act and his votes against legislative efforts in the Illinois Senate for three consecutive years (2001-2003) to give legal protections to a baby born alive during an attempted abortion procedure.
"[H]e has embraced legislation that is extreme, inhumane, and outright brutal," noted Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and former deputy assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives.
"There is no indication that he has the slightest sympathy for unborn children or any interest in ending the 'culture wars,'" he wrote in a commentary last August. "His past policies would, in fact, deepen the divisions."
Despite concerns, much of the Christian community has been supportive of the president-elect, encouraging and calling for prayers for him since his historic victory last November. Christian leaders including the Rev. Rick Warren and the Rev. Franklin Graham have been among the many conservatives who have publicly expressed their desire to see Obama's heart changed when it comes to the issue of abortion.
In his proclamation Thursday, President Bush said the "most basic" duty of government is to protect the life of the innocent.
"The sanctity of life is written in the hearts of all men and women," he stated. "On this day and throughout the year, we aspire to build a society in which every child is welcome in life and protected in law. We also encourage more of our fellow Americans to join our just and noble cause.
"History tells us that with a cause rooted in our deepest principles and appealing to the best instincts of our citizens, we will prevail," he concluded before officially proclaiming Jan. 18, 2009, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day.
"I call upon all Americans to recognize this day with appropriate ceremonies and to underscore our commitment to respecting and protecting the life and dignity of every human being," he added.
The first National Sanctity of Human Life Day was designated by President Ronald Reagan on Jan. 22, 1984. The date was chosen to coincide with the 11th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case that legalized abortions in the United States.
Churches across the country held marches and other events Sunday in honor of the observance. On Jan. 22, a large pro-life gathering called March for Life will take place in Washington D.C. The annual procession is among Washington's largest rallies, drawing an estimated 200,000 people.