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Thousands protest abortion

| Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, 6:36 p.m.
AFP/Getty Images
Thousands of anti-abortion demonstrators attend a rally on the National Mall during the 41st annual March of Life in Washington, DC, January 22, 2014. Held around the anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, the march draws thousands from around the country for a rally on the National Mall before marching up Capitol Hill to the US Supreme Court. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEBSAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Pro-choice demonstrators rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. Thousands of abortion opponents are facing wind chills in the single digits to rally and march on Capitol Hill to protest legalized abortion, with a signal of support from Pope Francis. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON — Thousands of abortion opponents confronted wind chills in the single digits on Wednesday to rally and march on Capitol Hill to protest legalized abortion, with a signal of support from Pope Francis.

The annual March for Life is held every January on the anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark 1973 decision that declared a constitutional right to abortion. The event draws many Catholic high school and college students from across the country for a series of events and prayer vigils that leads up to a rally and march on the snow-covered National Mall.

Francis, who has emphasized a broader focus on poverty beyond divisive issues, sent his support for the anti-abortion march.

“I join the March for Life in Washington with my prayers,” the pope tweeted. “May God help us respect all life, especially the most vulnerable.”

President Obama issued a statement on Wednesday, saying the 41st anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision is a chance to “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.”

The president also said the nation should resolve to protect a woman's access to health care and her right to privacy and to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies.

Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, a lobbying group, said, “It's time to seize this vital opportunity to reclaim the rights that Roe recognized and the protections it established more than four decades ago.”

The theme of this year's march is “Adoption: A Noble Decision,” as an alternative to abortion, organizers said.

Abortion protesters came from Georgia, Missouri, Pennsylvania and beyond.

Rick Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania who sought the Republican nomination for president, said the anti-abortion movement is in transition, more one “of love, not of judgment.”

The crowd included many young people, including high school and college students from Chicago, Cleveland and elsewhere. Many held signs that referred to Twitter: “#TeamLife.”

While there were mostly cheers and upbeat chants, the crowd booed when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said there had been an expansion of abortion coverage in the nation's health care overhaul.

Beverly Miller, 39, of Mankato, Minn., made her first trip to join the march with her 15-year-old son and youths from their church. Her local diocese rented buses and drove 20 hours to the nation's capital.

“When we get together in a group like this and we see that there's hundreds of thousands of other people like us, it gives us strength and courage and hope that we aren't alone. If we stand together, we really can make a difference,” Miller said.

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