Some arrived with fellow parishioners, others with classmates or alongside family members, but the thousands of pro-life activists who rallied Monday on the National Mall to mark the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade all came to support the same goal: life.
The annual March for Life was the culmination of three days of events marking the Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.
In his opening remarks at the rally, House Speaker John A. Boehner told the audience that he, as one of 12 children, was grateful for his mother’s strength.
“It wasn’t easy for my mother to have 12 children, but I’m sure glad she did,” said Mr. Boehner, Ohio Republican. “So I’ve never considered ‘pro-life’ to be a label or a position. It’s who I am, and it’s who we are as a people.”
The advocates came from across the country, many arriving as early as Saturday to attend a youth rally, Mass services at the Verizon Center and National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and other events that culminated with the afternoon march.
National Park Service officials said march organizers had secured a permit for 50,000 people but more historically attend.
Beneath a foggy sky and cold drizzle, the marchers proceeded from the Mall east along Constitution Avenue Northeast until they arrived at the steps of the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill.
As Pat Bennett, 64, waited for his group of fellow parishioners from the Archdiocese of Baltimore to arrive, he considered the significance of the rally and the upcoming presidential election.
“I think the current administration is a hater of life,” Mr. Bennett said, adding that it is important to put someone in office who believes in life.
Candy Morrison, 56, from Pasadena, Md., said she came out in the bad weather because abortion is “always an important issue.”
She was also out to show her support for Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, whose views on abortion as a states’ rights decision was something Ms. Morrison said she liked.
Fellow Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum also had supporters at the march, many holding signs and wearing stickers with his name on them.
Still, a majority of the messages related to pro-life issues, with signs ranging from “I love babies” to “Face it: abortion kills.”
Avoiding the rain beneath a hooded raincoat, the Rev. Robert W. Fleckenstein, of St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Wexford, Pa., said his 75-person contingent was only in town for the day, but the short visit was important.
“The reason we’re here is to be educated,” he said. “We’re also being witnesses to pro-life.”