President Ronald Reagan designated January 22, 1984, as the first National Sanctity of Human Life (SOHL) Day. The date was chosen to coincide with the 11th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case that legalized abortion on demand for all states, through all nine months of pregnancy.
In his essay entitled, Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation, President Reagan wrote, “Our nationwide policy of abortion on-demand through all nine months of pregnancy was neither voted for by our people nor enacted by our legislators—not a single state had such unrestricted abortion before the Supreme Court decreed it to be national policy in 1973…Make no mistake,” he said, “Abortion on demand is not a right granted by the Constitution…We cannot diminish the value of one category of human life—the unborn—without diminishing the value of all human life.”
Reagan issued the proclamation annually during each year of his presidency, designating the third Sunday of January as SOHL Day due to its proximity to the original date of January 22, 1973. Both George H.W. and George W. Bush commemorated this day during their presidencies, while Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both chose to discontinue the practice.
Since the Supreme Court decision in 1973, over 55 million lives have been ended by abortion in the United States. As horrific as it is, this number is positively dwarfed by the number of abortions that take place globally: at least 50 million every year. You do the math. On second thought…let me do it for you: 43 years × 50 million = over two billion abortions…give or take a few million.
Tragically, and to our shame, the United States now bears great responsibility for exporting abortion to scores of other nations. (One of President Obama’s first executive orders, for example, was to reverse a ban—instituted by President Reagan—prohibiting funding to international family planning organizations that provide abortions.)
By choosing to value every human life, President Ronald Reagan chose to agree with God. We must do the same. For this year’s observance of Sanctity of Human Life Day—this Sunday, January 17—I encourage you to set aside a time for prayer and meditation on God’s Word. The Bible reveals with profound clarity just how much God values His daughters and sons: Genesis 1:26-27 • Genesis 1:31 • Exodus 20:13 • Psalm 139:13-14 • Jeremiah 1:4-5 • John 3:16 • John 10:10.
President Reagan concluded his essay by saying, “We cannot survive as a free nation when some men decide that others are not fit to live and should be abandoned to abortion or infanticide. My administration is dedicated to the preservation of America as a free land, and there is no cause more important for preserving that freedom than affirming the transcendent right to life of all human beings, the right without which no other rights have any meaning.”
May we all grow in understanding about what has transpired, and what is transpiring, in the realm of the sanctity of all human life—in our individual nations and all around the world. We must ask the Lord to have mercy on us, to forgive our sins, and to heal our land (2 Chronicles 7:14). This Sunday, I’ll be on my knees. Will you join me there?
This post was originally published on January 14, 2016.