Thousands rally for annual March for Life

Thousands of protesters crowded the National Mall on Friday for the annual March for Life, condemning the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court's historic Roe v. Wade decision.

Protesters braved below-freezing temperatures and waved signs proclaiming, "40 years too many." Groups of teenagers carried placards calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood and chanted "Roe v. Wade has got to go."

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"Our nation is adrift — adrift in a wilderness where right and wrong have become subservient to a hedonism of the moment," Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said at the rally. "I believe our country is in need of a revival. I believe our country is in need of a spiritual cleansing."

Anti-Obama sentiment was relatively sparse — though not completely absent.

"President Obama systematically and aggressively promotes abortion at home and overseas," Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a video message that the House will continue trying to pass bills that defund Planned Parenthood. Those measures passed in the 112th Congress but died in the Senate, and would have met a veto from President Obama if they had gotten that far.

Speakers noted the number of young people in the shivering crowd, which was filled with middle- and high-school-aged protesters. Some carried signs declaring themselves members of a pro-life generation.

Although polls show that young people tend to side with abortion-rights supporters, both sides of the debate acknowledge that passions often run higher among abortion-rights opponents. Lawmakers and organizers did all they could to stoke those passions Friday, as the thousands of people from all over the country gathered for an hour and a half of speeches on the Mall before marching to the steps of the Supreme Court.

Organizers didn't know the official crowd size but said estimates ranged from 200,000 to 500,000 people.

Abortion isn't likely to come back before the court in the near future, but the current justices would likely be closely divided on the issue. Only if one of the court's more conservative members retires would President Obama have a chance to tip the balance of the court toward the left.