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On the Mall, many high school and college groups cheered, sang and clapped as they made their way through the slush and snow to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Paula Kowitz, 17, and her younger brother, Robert, traveled from St. Cloud, Minn., with their high school’s pro-life group Little Feet to take part in their first march.

“It’s just great to see a bunch of kids who care about the issues,” Paula said. “Some kids came out not knowing if they were pro-life or pro-choice.”

Robert said it was good to show other young people that the march was neither a stale event nor reserved for older people.

“Coming here was helpful in getting a bunch of kids to see this is our battle,” he said. “I’m ready to take it over.”

Pope Francis voiced his support, tweeting from his Pontifex Twitter account: “I join the March for Life in Washington with my prayers. May God help us respect all life, especially the most vulnerable.”

President Obama, meanwhile, said the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision was a day “to 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.”

As 2014 unfolds, leaders of pro-life and pro-choice camps said they will be watching legislative measures that seek to add or block regulations of abortion clinics and abortion procedures, as well as the fight over insurance coverage of abortion in the health care system as Obamacare is implemented.

One battleground centers on whether lawmakers can block abortions of “pain-capable” fetuses. Pro-life groups say it has been virtually proved that fetuses can feel pain at around 20 weeks of pregnancy, but pro-choice groups deny such feelings are possible until closer to 29 weeks of gestation.

Several states have fetal pain laws, although some have been enjoined or overturned. The House passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and a similar bill has been introduced in the Senate, with 41 sponsors.

Although state lawmakers approved more than 800 pro-life measures since 1995, the politics remain mixed. In recent months, voters in Albuquerque, N.M., rejected a measure that would have outlawed most late-term abortions, and voters in Virginia chose a slate of pro-choice Democrats, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe, over pro-life Republicans for state offices.

Sporting a gray knitted scarf made to look like a beard across her face, 54-year-old Michelle Baumgarten, of Schererville, Ind., said she became involved with the pro-life movement after her unmarried daughter became pregnant.

“For the first time in a long while a person suggested abortion,” Ms. Baumgarten said. “I asked her have you made a decision, and she [and her boyfriend] decided to get married. They’ve been married five years and now have a second child.

“Instead of keeping it in the back of my mind, I thought I’d better do something,” she said. “I don’t want to meet my maker and when he asks what I did on earth, I have nothing to say.”