January 9, 1989
By the President of the United States of America
Reverence for human life and recognition of the sanctity of individual life are among the defining characteristics of a just civil order. For century upon century, mankind has struggled to establish such principles in law -- not merely as right ideas confirmable by experience, but as self-evident truths that provide the only possible basis for the creation of durable political institutions. Age after age of wars and persecutions, serfdom and slavery, have left bitter reminders of the consequences that everywhere follow a failure to recognize the fundamental dignity and equality of human beings in the sight of God.
Our Nation was born in the midst of a struggle in which these principles were the real field of battle. The United States of America was founded by visionary people who believed, and said forthrightly, that the test of any just political system lay in whether it affirmed the unalienable rights endowed by God, rights that no civil authority was ever free to deny or contravene. In this context, it is no wonder then that the first right proclaimed by our Founders in the Declaration of Independence was that of life, and that the care of human life and happiness, as Jefferson declared in words now inscribed on the marble walls of our national Memorial to him, was held to be the first and only legitimate object of good government.
Today our Nation, economically prosperous and at peace, bears a fresh, dark wound upon its conscience, a wound created by a stark deviation from the course of our national journey. Contrary to the purpose of law, to the character of medicine, to the habit of charity, and to the spirit of our founding, abortion has become routinized in America. No one can mistake abortion for the gentle art of healing. Each day in our land the promise of life is stolen from thousands of the unborn, the first flower of their unique existence crushed forever. But, as many philosophers have pointed out, the effects of such acts of violence are just as profound on those who perform them as on those who undergo them.
Americans are a generous and kindhearted people, a people who strive to strengthen and preserve those delicate bonds of affection that unite the human family and give safe harbor to all its members. We often fail in our tenderness and mercy; but it is not in our nature to choose failure. Rather, we are a people who thirst after justice and will give our all to achieve it and defend it. Most particularly, we are a people who will not settle for a national policy that each year condemns 1.5 million unborn children to an early death and consigns their mothers to exploitation and emptiness. We must and we will answer abortion with loving alternatives like adoption, and we will ensure that our laws preserve and protect the innocent unborn from destruction.
In 1989 America can make a New Beginning as a champion of the most basic civil right of all. We can, as is written in Deuteronomy, choose life, so that we and our descendants may live.
Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Sunday, January 22, 1989, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day. I call upon all Americans to reflect on their heritage as a free people under God and the duty incumbent upon each of us to recognize the personhood of every individual and to defend the life of every innocent person from the moment of conception until natural death. Let us gather in homes and places of worship during this sixth annual observance of National Sanctity of Human Life Day to offer reparation for the appalling tragedy of abortion and to rededicate ourselves to works of charity and justice in behalf of America's unborn children and their mothers.
In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this ninth day of January, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirteenth.
[Filed with the Office of the Federal Register, 12:19 p.m., January 10, 1989]