WASHINGTON (WJZ/AP) — Today, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Washington D.C. for the 44th annual March for Life, the world's largest annual pro-life demonstration. Crowds were massive today, with some marching for hours.
The March for Life, held each year in Washington to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, had one of its biggest-name speakers in years: Vice President Mike Pence.
Pence drew a big roar from the crowd saying the Trump Administration will do everything they can to fight abortion.
Security was tight. The March for Life said that neither a president nor a vice president has ever addressed the event now in its 44th year. And one of President Donald Trump's top advisers, Kellyanne Conway also spoke.
People out here today say, they now have new hope. Hundreds of thousands of people making their voices heard in support of anti-abortion.
The 44th annual March for Life brought one of its biggest crowds in years, drawing thousands from the Charm City area alone, including Natasha Wilson with the Archdiocese of Baltimore and St. Benedict's church.
"Life is beautiful, life should just be appreciated," says Wilson.
Wilson says it's important that Baltimore was represented at the march.
"It's very important and it's well represented, and we have over a thousand pilgrims here."
Stressing how crucial it is to value life.
"We are made, especially as women, to just nurture life," says Wilson.
A statement Father James Boric and St. Jon the Evangelist Church in Severna Park echoes.
"Babies in the womb, they can't speak up for themselves, but we certainly can and we can do it with a smile," says Father Boric.
Up here, you get an idea of how massive the crowds are. On the street, you can see people are from North Carolina, New York, Philly and the Baltimore area everyone coming together and everyone, very peaceful.
Outside of the march, there's already serious talk of defunding Planned Parenthood. What Maryland officials know could soon be a reality with the Trump administration. In Congress, Republican majorities in both chambers are vowing to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provided more than a third of the nation's abortions in 2014. They also hope to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Trump has pledged to sign both measures if they reach his desk.
"We know it's a very real threat and it continues on as the days go by," says Karen J. Nelson, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Maryland.
A clash on abortion rights, they're taking head on.
"It makes it a challenge, we've been at this fight for 100 years," says Nelson.
That march ended the Supreme Court. A few people still lingering but for the most part, crowds have left for the day. Capping off a very peaceful march. The march was then followed by "Silent No More" testimonies outside the U.S. Supreme court
One of Trump's first official acts after taking office a week ago was to sign an executive order banning U.S. aid to foreign groups that provide abortions.
Less than a year ago, with Barack Obama's second term winding down, things were markedly different. The Supreme Court struck down Texas' strict regulations on abortion clinics as interfering with a woman's constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy. And with polls at the time suggesting Hillary Clinton would likely defeat Trump, abortion opponents worried about an era of liberal majorities on the court.
"The horizon looked bleak for the pro-life movement," said Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life.
Mancini suggested that many voters chose Trump largely because he pledged to appoint a Supreme Court justice who shared their views on abortion, even if they disagreed with him on other issues.
"I don't identify as a Republican or a Democrat but I do vote pro-life," Mancini said.
Abortion opponents also were heartened by a recent study that found the number of abortions in the United States dropped under 1 million in 2014, the lowest total in 40 years. The report by the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, credited increased access to birth control but also a surge in abortion restrictions in many states.
Americans remain deeply divided on abortion.
The latest Gallup survey, released last spring, found that 47 percent of Americans described themselves as pro-choice and 46 percent as pro-life. It also found that 79 percent believed abortion should be legal in either some or all circumstances.
Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said that poll shows why abortion-rights supporters shouldn't despair. She also said Republicans were taking actions that would result in more illegal abortions and deaths of pregnant women.
"The vast majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade and support the legal right to abortion," Hogue said.
Friday's march comes less than a week after one of the largest mass demonstrations in the city's history, the Women's March on Washington, which drew more than half a million people opposed to Trump on issues including abortion.
Although the landmark Supreme Court decision was Jan. 22, 1973, organizers of the march noted on their website that Trump was sworn in Jan. 20 and the National Park Service assigned Jan. 27 as the next available date for their event.
Mancini said she had planned to participate in the women's march until organizers dropped an anti-abortion group as an official partner. She said its failure to embrace different views on abortion was a missed opportunity.
The March for Life routinely draws thousands, even in harsh weather. Last year's was held in a blizzard that dumped nearly 2 feet of snow on the nation's capital.
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