WASHINGTON -- President Bush told abortion foes on Monday he shared their support for “a culture of life” and claimed progress in passing legislation to protect the vulnerable.
“We need most of all to change hearts and that is what we’re doing,” Bush said as anti-abortion activists marked the 32nd anniversary of the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion with a day of rallies, protests and other activities.
The issue took on new urgency with the likelihood of a high court vacancy.
Bush addressed marchers by phone from the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md., where he had spent the weekend.
Every anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision, prompts demonstrations by opponents and proponents of abortion rights. Activists on both sides of the abortion issue marched in demonstrations across the country Saturday, the actual anniversary of the Jan. 23 decision.
This year there is increasing speculation about Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist’s health. Three other justices have had cancer.
One or more court vacancies would give President Bush the chance to install another justice or justices who oppose the Roe decision, increasing the likelihood that at some point, the ruling could be overturned.
Bush conceded that a society “where every child is welcome...may still be some way away.”
Still, he said, he was working with Congress to pass “good, solid legislation to protect the vulnerable.” He cited his signing of legislation last year to outlaw certain late-term abortions.
“The strong have a duty to protect the weak,” Bush said.
On Monday, abortion opponents staged a rally before a march from the Ellipse to the Supreme Court. Other groups opposed to abortion rights were holding events on Capitol Hill.
NARAL Pro-Choice America has projected that 19 states would quickly outlaw abortion, and 19 more might follow suit, if Roe vs. Wade were overturned.
Last week, Norma McCorvey, the woman known as “Jane Roe” in Roe vs. Wade, asked the Supreme Court to overturn its 1973 decision.