WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush on Monday told opponents of abortion their views would eventually prevail and urged them to work to convince more Americans of "the rightness of our cause."
On the 33rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that established federal abortion rights, Bush addressed activists by telephone from Manhattan, Kansas, and called their goals noble.
"We, of course, seek common ground where possible," he said. "We're working to persuade more of our fellow Americans of the rightness of our cause, and this is a cause that appeals to the conscience of our citizens and is rooted in America's deepest principles -- history tells us that with such a cause, we will prevail."
The rally was held to protest the 1973 decision, which opponents hope to overturn someday, especially now that Bush has named two justices to the Supreme Court -- John Roberts, who replaced the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, and Samuel Alito to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
O'Connor has often been the swing vote on abortion and other social issues on the nine-member court.
Alito, whose confirmation by the Senate is expected soon, gave no clear statement on whether he would vote to overturn Roe if it came before the court, although he opposed abortion in a memo he wrote as a Reagan administration attorney two decades ago.
During his confirmation hearings, Alito reaffirmed his vow to respect legal precedent and noted the 1973 decision had been upheld repeatedly.
"You believe as I do that every human life has value, that the strong have a duty to protect the weak and that the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence apply to everyone, not just to those considered healthy or wanted or convenient," Bush told the anti-abortion marchers.
As anti-abortion activists gathered in Washington and elsewhere across the country, Bush headed for Kansas where he spoke about the war on terrorism. As he has in past years, the president phoned in his support rather than attend in person.