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Wednesday, 23 January, 2002, 00:32 GMT
Bush backs rallying anti-abortionists
US Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has the power to overturn the law allowing abortion
US President George W Bush has lent his voice to anti-abortionists in America rallying on the 29th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling allowing abortion.

Unborn children should we welcomed in life and protected in law

President Bush
President Bush, who is strongly opposed to abortion but has promised not to overturn the 1973 Roe V Wade ruling during his administration, described the march in Washington as "inspired".

"This march is an example of inspired commitment and deep human compassion," President Bush said in a telephone call from Virginia that was broadcast to the activists.

He said supporters of the right to abortion should be treated with "respect and humility" but vowed to continue to speak out "on behalf of the most vulnerable members of society".

Landmark ruling

The nine-person Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy was protected by the right to liberty enshrined in the 14th amendment of the US constitution.

Douglas Johnson, legislative director, National Right to Life Committee
Douglas Johnson, pro-life activist, says anti-abortionists will vote tactically
But the court can reverse earlier decisions and supporters of abortion fear that this could happen to Roe v Wade if the balance of the court - currently 5-4 in support of the ruling - changes under Bush's administration.

President Bush's message was greeted with thunderous applause by the thousands of anti-abortionists who attended the rally.

The president reiterated his backing for bans on public funding for termination and late-term abortions.

He also said he supported teenage abstinence and laws under which parents of teenagers seeking abortions are notified.

Rally of thousands

Many marchers viewed Mr Bush as a patron, with one huge sign reading, "Michigan Loves Our Pro-Life President."

Another placard linked the activities of Planned Parenthood Federation of America which offers family planning services, with terrorism or an act of war.

"Empire of Japan, 2,403 killed at Pearl Harbor; al-Qaeda-Taleban, 2,937 killed Sept. 11; Planned Parenthood, 1st trimester aborted human embryos, 3,600 killed every day," the sign read.

A few streets away, abortion rights supporters held a rival protest, slamming the Bush administration's record on the issue, which has included the appointment of John Ashcroft, a long-term opponent of abortion, as attorney-general.

"The political deck is stacked against the women of the country," said Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood.

Rights advocates are concerned that the Congressional mid-term elections could have repercussions that could jeopardise Roe v Wade.

The results could alter the narrow Democratic majority in the Senate - which has to confirm any Supreme Court nomination made by President Bush.

See also:

22 Jan 98 | US abortion rights
Abortion controversy continues to rage in the US
03 Feb 99 | US abortion rights
The politics of abortion
29 Aug 00 | Health
'Abortion causes foetal pain'
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