For the first time since the legalization of abortion in 1973, a U.S. President is lending his prestige and authority to seek legal rights for the unborn.

President Ronald Reagan was the first president to address the now-annual demonstration in Washington on January 22, the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion. Reagan’s comments delighted the 71,000 strong pro-life crowd, when he told them “I support you.” (Toronto Star, January 23.) At the same time he urged them to reject violence.

The president called for laws to prohibit abortion in all cases except those where a woman’s life is endangered. “I will continue to work with all those in Congress and out, who believe, as I do, that abortion is the taking of life of a living human being,” Reagan told the cheering protestors. He also urged abortion opponents “to rededicate ourselves to ending the terrible national tragedy of abortion. The general feeling that abortion is just a small harmless medical decision, that’s simply a matter of choice,” he said, “has almost disappeared.”

Mr. Reagan made his support for legislative action more explicit in his “State of the Union Address” of Wednesday, February 6. The full text printed in the Washington Post includes the following reference:

“The question of abortion grips our nation. Abortion is either the taking of human life, or it isn’t. And, if is – and medical technology is increasingly showing it is – it must be stopped.

“It is a terrible irony that, while some turn to abortion, so many others who cannot become parents cry out for children to adopt. We have room for these children; we can fill the cradles of those who want a child to love. Tonight I ask the Congress to move this year on legislation to protect the unborn.”