WASHINGTON - Thousands of abortion opponents were in Washington, D.C. Friday for their annual rally at the National Mall.
The March for Life, which is held every year in the nation’s capital, marks the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
Friday's rally featured one of its biggest-name speakers in years: Vice President Mike Pence. Pence told a crowd gathered in Washington for the annual March for Life rally that ending taxpayer-funded abortion is an important priority of President Donald Trump. He said the Trump administration would "work with the Congress to end taxpayer funding of abortion and abortion providers, and we will devote those resources to health care services for women across America." He said President Donald Trump would be nominating a Supreme Court justice next week who "will uphold the God-given liberties enshrined in our Constitution." Counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway, also spoke to the crowd.
The National Park Service said organizers expect 50,000 participants. During the morning prior to the march, thousands gather at the Verizon Center and the D.C. Armory for youth prayer services and mass.
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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. Congress also hopes to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy with Trump pledging to sign both measures if they reach his desk.
One of the President’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.
"The horizon looked bleak for the pro-life movement," Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, told the Associated Press. Less than a year ago, the Supreme Court struck down Texas' strict regulations on abortion clinics as interfering with a woman's constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.
Mancini told the AP that many voters chose Trump because he pledged to appoint a Supreme Court justice who shared their views on abortion.
Abortion opponents also were heartened by a recent study, by the Guttmacher Institute, found the number of abortions in the United States dropped under 1 million in 2014 - the lowest total in 40 years. The report credited increased access to birth control but also a surge in abortion restrictions in many states.
The Associated Press reports that a 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.
The March for Life comes less than a week after one of the largest mass demonstrations in D.C.’s history, the Women's March on Washington, which drew more than half a million people opposed to Trump on issues including abortion.
Mancini said she had planned to participate in the Women's March on Washington 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.