On Jan. 22, abortion rights activists will be marking the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade in the name of a woman's right to choose. Pro-life supporters, meanwhile, will be speaking on behalf of the most vulnerable and weakest members of society under their own "holiday" on Sunday: National Sanctity of Human Life Day.
It is a day when "we recognize that each life has inherent dignity and matchless value," said President Bush in his 2008 proclamation for National Sanctity of Human Life Day.
The annual observance, which falls on the Sunday closest to the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, also marks the efforts by the United States to "strengthen the culture of life in America and work for the day when every child is welcomed in life and protected in law."
This year, Sanctity of Human Life Day comes just days after a newly released report that showed the number of abortions performed in the U.S. in 2005 dropped to the lowest level since 1976.
Although the report by Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-health research organization, did not identify reasons for the drop in abortions, pro-life groups were encouraged by the findings and said their outreach is having an impact on changing attitudes on abortion.
"There's been a lot of pro-life education and outreach, and a lot of people out there providing women with positive alternatives to abortion," Randall K. O'Bannon, director of education and research for National Right to Life, told Newsweek. "This data tells you that attitudes have changed."
But while the declining trend in abortions was welcomed by pro-life groups, they will not be holding back in promoting events that lend a voice to the unborn on Sunday.
In Illinois, Care Net Pregnancy Services of Quincy will be organizing an interdenominational "Light Up the Night" demonstration, where participants will light up 833 luminaries or candles to memorialize the number of abortions that are expected to take place this week. The event will be held one day prior to the federal observance of the birthday of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
"We need to help people understand this is not a religious thing, it's a civil rights issue – the right to live," Laura Willing, executive director of the local Care Net, told Quincy Herald-Whig.
According to the local newspaper, the anticipated lighting of 45 million luminaries is also expected to occur nationwide on Sunday.
In addition to candles, Care Net, an organization which supports a national network of 1,150 pregnancy centers, is also providing educational brochures on National Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.
On Friday, the group announced that a record number – 1.5 million – of its brochures on the observance will be distributed in churches. The brochures explain how individuals can make a difference in the lives of women facing unplanned pregnancies by supporting the life-affirming work of pregnancy centers.
"Every day, thousands of volunteers show up at the doors of our nation's pregnancy centers to help those in need," Care Net President Melinda Delahoyde said in a statement.
Some local pregnancy centers will bring more than just information to the public.
In Oceanside, Calif., Pregnancy Resource Center will be sending its 36-foot RV, retrofitted as a mobile medical ultrasound unit, to the local community for viewing as part of the open house celebrating Sanctity of Human Life. The RV is part of a program that will offer free limited pregnancy services, including ultrasounds, pregnancy tests and pregnancy options consulting, among other services.
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 will be holding small marches in honor of the day. On Jan. 22, a large pro-life gathering called March for Life will take place in Washington D.C.
Nearby in Virgina, Blue Ridge Pregnancy Center of Lynchburg will be sending representatives to area churches to inform them of the center's open house over the next several days.
"I don't think people realize the consequences that abortion can have on your life, and so we just want to bring that awareness and let people know that there is help available," said Lori Meetre, executive director of the Lynchburg center, according to The News & Advance.
"We really want to offer hope to women and to minister to them emotionally, physically and spiritually," she added.
Commenting on the various activities to commemorate the Sanctity of Human Life Day, Delahoyde said, "Like the outpouring of love and support after a national disaster, there is nothing more beautiful than seeing communities across this nation respond in such positive ways."