JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - On the 41st anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion, marches were held across the nation to protest that decision.
Hundreds of abortion opponents marched around the Federal Courthouse in Jacksonville on Wednesday, and thousands more braved 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.
The annual "March for Life" is held every January on the anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade 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 leading up to a rally and march on the National Mall.
Locally, organizers hold an annual march for people who want to show their opposition to abortion, but can't make it to Washington.
"Fifty-five million babies have been killed by legal abortion since 1973," said Brad Straley. "There are so many families that cannot have babies on their own that would love to adopt. We think there are loving options to abortion."
Pope 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 Barack Obama also issued a statement 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, her right to privacy and to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies.
The theme of this year's march is adoption and eliminating stigma around adoption as an alternative to abortion for pregnant women who face difficult situations.
Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois are among a group of lawmakers scheduled to speak at the anti-abortion rally Wednesday.
The march begins on the National Mall with a rally at noon. Then protesters will march along Constitution Avenue to Capitol Hill and the Supreme Court.
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