Eleven years removed from the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision, President Ronald Reagan made a proclamation that has become so much more than the words printed on a piece of paper. He not only demonstrated his stance for life, but he turned it into a day of celebration rather than sadness. And though he acknowledge the millions of babies that died unnecessarily at the hands of abortion, he saw the importance of changing the narrative with our nation until the law could be changed.
When President Reagan penned this proclamation, he shared that 15 million babies have been killed by abortion since the 1973 Supreme Court decision. That number has been dwarfed by the nearly 60 million deaths since Roe vs. Wade up to the present day! Despite the staggering loss of life (the phrase that is often used is “1/3 of my generation is missing”), Reagan’s now famous proclamation has created a groundswell of citizens that have joined the cause for the sanctity of life. And it is due in large part to the vivid words and quotable phrases from The Great Communicator.
Proclamation 5147 — National Sanctity of Human Life Day, 1984
January 13, 1984
By the President of the United States
The values and freedoms we cherish as Americans rest on our fundamental commitment to the sanctity of human life. The first of the “unalienable rights” affirmed by our Declaration of Independence is the right to life itself, a right the Declaration states has been endowed by our Creator on all human beings — whether young or old, weak or strong, healthy or handicapped.
Since 1973, however, more than 15 million unborn children have died in legalized abortions — a tragedy of stunning dimensions that stands in sad contrast to our belief that each life is sacred. These children, over tenfold the number of Americans lost in all our Nation’s wars, will never laugh, never sing, never experience the joy of human love; nor will they strive to heal the sick, or feed the poor, or make peace among nations. Abortion has denied them the first and most basic of human rights, and we are infinitely poorer for their loss.
We are poorer not simply for lives not led and for contributions not made, but also for the erosion of our sense of the worth and dignity of every individual. To diminish the value of one category of human life is to diminish us all. Slavery, which treated Blacks as something less than human, to be bought and sold if convenient, cheapened human life and mocked our dedication to the freedom and equality of all men and women. Can we say that abortion — which treats the unborn as something less than human, to be destroyed if convenient — will be less corrosive to the values we hold dear?
We have been given the precious gift of human life, made more precious still by our births in or pilgrimages to a land of freedom. It is fitting, then, on the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade that struck down State anti-abortion laws, that we reflect anew on these blessings, and on our corresponding responsibility to guard with care the lives and freedoms of even the weakest of our fellow human beings.
Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Sunday, January 22, 1984, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day. I call upon the citizens of this blessed land to gather on that day in homes and places of worship to give thanks for the gift of life, and to reaffirm our commitment to the dignity of every human being and the sanctity of each human life.
In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this 13th day of January, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-four, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and eighth.
[Filed with the Office of the Federal Register, 10:24 a.m., January 16, 1984]
“We must educate ourselves to the reality of the horrors taking place”, Reagan said. “The abortionist who reassembles the arms and legs of a tiny baby to make sure all its parts have been torn from its mother’s body can hardly doubt whether it is a human being,” he said.“The real question for him and for all of us is whether that tiny human life has a God-given right to be protected by the law – the same right we have.”
This is the most egregious precept that was overlooked due to the raw judicial power, having been wielded as a sword on the unborn, by way of Roe v. Wade. The laws that should protect the unborn are the same laws that protect our post-birth citizens. But the justices failed to apply the words from our country’s founding ‘Declaration’ to the unborn! Reagan highlighted this unforgivable error of judicial responsibility:
“The values and freedoms we cherish as Americans rest on our fundamental commitment to the sanctity of human life. The first of the ‘unalienable rights’ affirmed by our Declaration of Independence is the right to life itself, a right the Declaration states has been endowed by our Creator on all human beings — whether young or old, weak or strong, healthy or handicapped.”
“Make no mistake, abortion-on-demand is not a right granted by the Constitution.” –
President Ronald Reagan
It should be noted that every president has honored this proclamation since that day, except Bill Clinton & Barack Obama (both are democrats), who chose to reverse it during each of their two terms. I think it’s clear that that party is NOT for the sanctity of life, having gone out of their way to remove the proclamation!
The good news for the Life Movement is that we are witnessing a positive trend in the direction of life, as the number of abortions in America have seen a steady decline – especially in the 21st Century. So the work of Ronald Reagan to recognize the unborn as people, just as we are, that have unalienable rights endowed by their creator is one of the loudest and enduring voices that has spoken on behalf of the voiceless since the decision of Roe v. Wade. And his proclamation will endure beyond the day of what we hope will be a reversal of this decision that still haunts the greatest nation on earth.
(Chris Gaines is an author and Editor-in-Chief of Patriot Gaines. He resides in the Cedar Valley of Northern Iowa with his wife, Jennifer, and two kids, Patrick & Megan.)