Opponents of abortion demonstrated in Washington on Friday, marking the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe vs. Wade that decriminalized abortion.
The demonstration began in the cold at about noon, with perhaps hundreds of people participating, according to video images. But organizers of the March for Life -- scheduled to go from the National Mall to the Supreme Court building -- said they expected hundreds of thousands of people over the course of the day. Among the scheduled speakers were former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum and Reps. Chris Smith of New Jersey and Diane Black of Tennessee.
Pope Benedict XVI offered his support via social media, saying in a tweet: “I join all those marching for life from afar, and pray that political leaders will protect the unborn and promote a culture of life.”
The Roman Catholic Church preaches that life begins at conception, making abortion a sin in its eyes.
Traditionally, both foes and supporters of abortion rights hold demonstrations to mark the Supreme Court ruling, which held that women have a constitutionally protected right to have an abortion in the early stages of pregnancy.
The anniversary actually was Tuesday, but the National Park Service asked to reschedule the anti-abortion march because of the activities surrounding the presidential inauguration.
Supporters of abortion rights also staged demonstrations this week in Washington and across the nation. The National Organization of Women sponsored a candlelight vigil Tuesday night in front of the Supreme Court.
A spate of recent polls, including one by the Pew Research Center, show that a solid majority of Americans remain opposed to overturning the Roe vs. Wade decision.
Still, abortion remains a political issue and a litmus test. Abortion opponents continue to push for limitations on abortion availability and funding and are seen as an important constituency in the Republican Party.