President Obama on Wednesday hailed the anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade and reaffirmed his “steadfast commitment” to protecting abortion rights.

“Today, as we reflect on the 41st anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, we recommit ourselves to the decision's guiding principle: that every woman should be able to make her own choices about her body and her health,” said Obama in a statement. “We reaffirm our steadfast commitment to protecting a woman's access to safe, affordable health care and her constitutional right to privacy, including the right to reproductive freedom.

“And we resolve to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, support maternal and child health, and continue to build safe and healthy communities for all our children,” the president continued. “Because this is a country where everyone deserves the same freedom and opportunities to fulfill their dreams.”

The high court in its landmark 1973 ruling said state laws banning abortion were unconstitutional, intensifying a decades-long debate and providing a rallying cry for social conservatives who seek to bar the procedure.

Obama’s statement comes as thousands of anti-abortion rights activists rallied in Washington for the annual March for Life.

Pope Francis, who will meet Obama in March, also tweeted his support for the demonstration, saying “I join the March for Life in Washington with my prayers. May God help us respect all life, especially the most vulnerable.”

The Roe v. Wade decision allows states to pass restrictions on abortions, however, and in recent years GOP-controlled state legislatures have passed a number of new laws on the procedure. Pro-abortion rights groups say many of those new restrictions have forced the closing of abortion clinics, denying women health care. But social conservatives back the restrictions arguing that they are essential to protecting the safety of women.