WASHINGTON — Encouraged by President Reagan and undeterred by heavy snow, abortion foes gathered today to protest the 14th anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark decision legalizing abortion.
Reagan told an estimated 2,000 demonstrators, gathered in a park near the White House: "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 respect for the most basic civil right, the right to life," the President said via telephone hookup in what has become an annual ritual.
After Reagan's speech, the marchers, hampered by six inches of snow, began their trek along Pennsylvania Avenue to the Supreme Court.
Reagan, who has often voiced his rhetorical support for the anti-abortion movement while refusing to expend any political capital on the issue, said his Administration had worked to restrict federal funds for abortions, and told the protesters:
"Your prayers and your hard work have brought us a long way since the tragedy of 1973, and together, with God's help, we will finish the task and heal our wounded nation."
But the President was told by protest leader Nellie Gray that he had not done enough for the cause. She said an appropriation for the District of Columbia that Reagan signed means "10,000 babies are killed with our tax dollars."
"I'll get right on that right away to see what can be done," Reagan said.
U.S. Park Police estimated the crowd at 2,000. A year ago the march drew 37,000 people; in 1985, it drew 71,000.