They came from North Dakota and Kansas and closer to the nation’s capital, bringing their signs, their voices, and, in many cases, their children as they braved single-digit weather to express their dearly-held belief: “There is an unalienable right to life, and that right extends to the unborn.”
So said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) speaking to the thousands of pro-life protesters who thronged the streets of Washington today for the 41st annual March for Life.
The event has taken place every year since the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade determined that abortion fell under the umbrella of the personal right to privacy.
“Hundreds of thousands” of people attended this year’s march, one organizer told the Free Beacon as the demonstrators left the National Mall and walked toward the Supreme Court.
He was quickly corrected by another organizer, a woman who clarified that the march does not offer official crowd estimates.
“But when you fill Constitution Avenue, I mean, that should give you a sense of the size,” she said.
The U.S. Park Police no longer offers official crowd estimates. After their determination that the Million Man March had only attracted 400,000 participants did not go over very well with Louis Farrakhan, Congress directed the Park Police to stop taking headcounts at large gatherings in D.C.
Before marching to the steps of the Supreme Court, March for Life participants rallied on the Mall and heard from pro-life leaders such as Cantor, Rep. Chris Smith (R., N.J.), and Dr. James Dobson.
“I believe that one day in the not-too-distant future, our movement will be victorious,” Cantor told the crowd.
Pledging continued opposition to abortion, Cantor touted the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which he said would go to a vote in the House next week.
“Next week the House will vote to end once and for all taxpayer funding of abortions,” Cantor said. “The people’s House will stand for life.”
Smith built on Cantor’s opening, praising members of the pro-life community for braving the cold.
“Despite the fact that President Obama is using stealth, deception and the coercion of the state to promote the violence of abortion,” Smith said, “the pro-life movement is alive and well.”
He said that over 200 pro-life bills were passed around the country in 2013.
Smith also noted that Obamacare’s provision of taxpayer funding for abortion came despite previous presidential assurances—and an executive order—that the Affordable Care Act would do no such thing.
Dobson’s presence represented part of the March’s makeover this year.
The March has long been dominated by Catholics, with many Catholic schools busing students to D.C. for the event, but this year organizers sought to appeal to a broader coalition of faith groups, and the evangelical Dobson fit the bill.
“Your faces are cold, but your hearts are on fire,” Dobson told the crowd,
Skies were clear, but the temperature in D.C. hovered around 18 degrees. The wind chill made it feel like single digits.
Present in the crowd were John Zimmerman and Tyrel Bramwell, both Lutheran seminarians at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.
The pair acknowledged the overwhelming presence of Roman Catholics at the march, but they dismissed the notion that the heavy Catholic presence made other religions feel excluded.
“This is about unity among Christians, and non-Christians even,” Zimmerman said. “It’s about all of us coming together to celebrate the gift of life from our Creator.”
Many marchers traveled long distances to be there.
Brian Curran, a freshman at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., said he spent about 24 hours on the bus ride to D.C. He will end up missing a full three days of classes.
He said he was attending the march to demonstrate solidarity with other pro-life activists.
“The media likes to marginalize us as a fringe group,” Brian said. “500,000 people is not a fringe group.”
Benedictine sent eight buses, containing one-fifth of the school’s entire student body, to the march this year, while other schools including the Catholic University of America, Franciscan University of Steubenville, and Christendom College sent thousands of their own students.
This year’s march comes as opinions on abortion are in flux.
A Gallup poll from January 2013 indicated that most Americans support the Roe v. Wade decision.
Other polling has found that most Americans do not consider abortion to be an important issue, and that less than half of adults under 30 could even say what Roe v. Wade had determined.
Pro-lifers have a glimmer of hope, however, in the form of a Knights of Columbus/Marist poll showing that, while most Americans want abortion to be legal under certain circumstances, 62 percent think abortion is morally wrong and the vast majority would approve of some restrictions.
The 2014 March for Life ended as many past marches have: freezing pro-life activists rallied in front of the Supreme Court, listening to the tearful testimonies of women who regret having abortions—before rushing the encircling Capitol Police to ask for directions to Union Station.