January 22, 1987

The President. Hello, Nellie Gray?

Miss Gray. Hello, Mr. President.

The President. Hello, Nellie. It's good to hear your voice again. [Applause]

Miss Gray. Mr. President, this is prolife America greeting you today. And as you can see, the determination of prolife America is that we are going to save these babies. We are not letting any elements or anything deter us. And we want to work strongly with the White House and the legislators, because we are going to have the paramount human life amendment. And we await your word, Mr. President.

The President. Well, Nellie, it's evident to me that you're not going to let a little weather stand in the way of this noble cause, and to all of you there in this year's March for Life: Welcome to Washington, and thank you for your commitment to the right to life of America's unborn children.

Today you remind all of us that abortion is not a harmless medical procedure but the taking of the life of a living human being. This tragic and terrible toll continues at a rate of more than 4,000 young lives lost each day. Our national commitment to the dignity of all human life must begin with the respect for our most basic civil right: the right to life. In my State of the Union Address last year, I observed that America will never be whole as long as the right to life, granted by our Creator, is denied to the unborn. Together we can overturn Roe v. Wade, and end this national tragedy.

Miss Gray. Yes, Mr. President.

The President. Well, by your presence here today, Nellie and all of you, you answer the violence of abortion with confidence in our democratic process. Your nonviolent commitment to life can overcome the violence of abortion, and we shall overcome bitterness to reach a greater respect for human life. Many of you've already done much in our legislatures and courts. Others of you've provided counseling and compassionate care for women seeking alternatives to abortion. Each woman who chooses life for her child affirms our reverence for human life and ennobles our society. Each child is a unique, unrepeatable gift, and every child who escapes the violence of abortion is an immeasurable victory for life.

During my administration we've worked together to restrict the use of Federal funds to perform abortions, we've denied government funds to organizations overseas that perform or promote abortion, and we have repeatedly called upon the Congress and the Supreme Court to take those steps necessary to overturn Roe v. Wade. Your prayers and your hard work have brought us a long way since the tragedy of 1973. Together, with God's help, we will finish the task and heal our wounded nation. God bless you all.

Miss Gray. Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President?

The President. Yes, Nellie?

Miss Gray. We want to thank you very much for these words, and particularly those which talk about the things that we can do. For instance, we can stop the funding of abortion. And when we were here last year, Mr. President, I asked if I could work with you and your staff on a number of things, one of which concerned the DC appropriation bill. Unfortunately, when that bill went through the Congress, we were trying to stop the funding there, and then I was needing a veto. But we didn't have someone in the White House that we could work closely with. And unfortunately, again, Mr. President, for the fifth year in a row, we have funds for abortion in the District of Columbia approved by our prolife President. And I want to work with you now with a commitment that there is a senior staff member in the White House with whom I personally can work so that we can stop the funds for abortions here in the District and assure that those appropriation bills are vetoed in the White House. Because, Mr. President, when you sign the bill, it's giving a blank check to the District of Columbia, and about 10,000 babies are killed with our tax dollars. Can we work with you to stop the funds for abortion in the District of Columbia, Mr. President?

The President. Nellie, I'll get on that right away to see what can be done. I hope you realize that some of this, with regard to vetoing, runs into the thing that I don't have, but that I've been asking Congress for for these 6 years. And we'll use your help, and that is the right to line-item veto.

Miss Gray. Well, I was thinking, Mr. President, that we veto the whole District of Columbia bill, because if there's one penny in there to kill the preborn babies, then the whole bill is bad. And, Mr. President, on this DC appropriation bill, you are veto-proof. It cannot be overridden, because we prolifers have more people in the Congress, that they will uphold your veto. And I want to work closely with you and your staff personally so that we stop the funds for abortion in the District.

The President. Well, I will get someone in touch with you, and we'll be sure that we can work closer together.

Miss Gray. Thank you, Mr. President. The people who are here today are from very far away. They're from Massachusetts, Wisconsin, those buses have rolled in from New York and Pennsylvania. We're from all over the country.

The President. Well, God bless you. And -- --

Miss Gray. As you can hear, we're from all over the country, and we're so committed. And we will stay with you, and we will work to help get the funds stopped plus assure that there are appointments of prolife judges. And then I wanted to tell you, Mr. President, that Congressman [Robert K.] Dornan is introducing the paramount human life amendment today, and we will ask your support for that, too, please.

The President. You have it. All right. God bless you all.

Miss Gray. Mr. President, we want to thank you. Know that our love and prayers are with you. We want you to be there to guide us, and we will follow your leadership. Thank you, Mr. President.

The President. Thank you. All right. Goodbye.

Note: The President spoke at 12:01 p.m. from the Oval Office at the White House via a loudspeaker hookup with the rally site. Participants had gathered on the Ellipse for a march to the Supreme Court on the 14th anniversary of the Court's decision of ``Roe v. Wade,'' which legalized abortion. Nellie Gray was president of March for Life.