It was 39 years ago yesterday that the Supreme Court issued its Roe v. Wade ruling, and not surprisingly, every Jan. 22 since has been an occasion for both sides to note the anniversary.

In a White House statement, President Obama said, “[W]e must remember that this Supreme Court decision not only protects a woman’s health and reproductive freedom, but also affirms a broader principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose and this fundamental constitutional right.”

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney adopted a very different line in his written statement:

“Today marks the 39th anniversary of one of the darkest moments in Supreme Court history, when the court in Roe v. Wade claimed authority over the fundamental question regarding the rights of the unborn. The result is millions of lives since that day have been tragically silenced. Since that day, the pro-life movement has been working tirelessly in an effort to change hearts and minds and protect the weakest and most vulnerable among us.

“Today, we recommit ourselves to reversing that decision, for in the quiet of conscience, people of both political parties know that more than a million abortions a year cannot be squared with the good heart of America.”

Here’s the obligatory evidence of Romney saying the exact opposite when he launched this political career 18 years ago.

On a related note, Sarah Kliff talked with Charmaine Yoest is the president of Americans United for Life, the country’s oldest antiabortion organization, about the movement’s recent successes. Yoest described the progress made by opponents of abortion rights in 2011 as “breathtaking.”

From her perspective, Yoest meant that in a positive sense, and as quantitative matter, she has a point. As Igor Volsky noted earlier in the month, “Lawmakers across the nation pursued a record number of reproductive health and rights-related provisions in 2011, a new report from the Guttmacher Institute finds, enacting 135 measures in 36 states — ‘an increase from the 89 enacted in 2010 and the 77 enacted in 2009.’ Sixty-eight percent of the provisions — 92 in 24 states — restricted access to abortion services.”

Breathtaking, indeed.

The trend will likely continue in 2012, with even more significant threats looming in 2013. Given Romney’s statement yesterday, and a Republican administration’s plans for the federal judiciary, Roe may not have many anniversaries left if the GOP fares well in November.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.