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Bush declares National Sanctity of Human Life Day

Roe v. Wade anniversary approaches

Bush: "Every child is a priority and a blessing."

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In a move praised by conservatives and criticized by abortion rights activists, President Bush declared January 19 "National Sanctity of Human Life Day."

Tuesday's presidential proclamation was issued in advance of next week's 30th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which legalized abortion in the United States. Conservatives have sought for years to overturn that decision.

Bush, who has supported various abortion restrictions, called on all Americans on Sunday to "reaffirm the value of human life and renew our dedication to ensuring that every American has access to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

"Every child is a priority and a blessing, and I believe that all should be welcomed in life and protected by law," Bush's proclamation said.

Abortion rights groups sharply criticized the president.

Susanne Martinez, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood, said the timing of the announcement showed that the Bush administration "has made it clear they'd like the law overturned in the U.S."

"This administration for two years has waged a war against women," she said in a telephone interview. "He has tried to elevate the rights of the fetus above the rights of women, and that's a tragedy."

Abortion opponents praised the president's proclamation.

"It's a wonderful statement of what the pro-life movement is really all about," said Darla St. Martin, associate executive director of the National Right to Life organization.

"President Bush's pro-life view is clearly grounded in his respect and concern for all people," she added.

In the proclamation, Bush cited his administration's efforts to create "compassionate alternatives to abortion."

"My administration has championed compassionate alternatives to abortion, such as helping women in crisis through maternity group homes, encouraging adoption, promoting abstinence education, and passing laws requiring parental notification and waiting periods for minors," Bush said.

Bush also touted his Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which he signed into law in August 2002.

"This important legislation helps protect the most vulnerable members of our society by ensuring that every infant born alive, including one who survives abortion, is considered a person and receives protection under federal law," the proclamation read.

The president urged people to celebrate the day by holding ceremonies at home or at places of worship, and to "rededicate ourselves to compassionate service, and to reaffirm our commitment to respecting the life and dignity of every human being."

The National Abortion Rights Action League/Pro-Choice America released a statement calling Bush's proclamation an effort to roll back abortion rights.

"The president clearly wants the federal government in doctors' offices making personal decisions that should be left to women and their doctors," NARAL said.

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