As Washington DC bedded down on Friday in preparation for what turned out to be one of the worst snowstorms in history to hit the US, a hardy 50,000 pro-life campaigners bore down on the Supreme Court building in the capital to mark the 43rd anniversary of the Roe vs Wade decision that effectively legalised abortion in the US.
Hundreds of thousands were expected, but with reports of a snow storm gathering throughout the week, a number of groups who were planning to travel distances to get to the capitol contacted the organisers to say that they weren't going to make it after all.
“We have worked very closely with police, we have emergency plans and weather plans, we think that is in the best interest of everyone that we continue,” Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life.
As it turned out, the march was able to gather around the Washington Monument and wind its way up Constitution Avenue to Capitol Hill in time to end as the first snowflakes began to fall on Washington DC.
“We need to convince those who disagree with us that the pro-life message is about excluding nobody, that it means love and respect for those with whom we disagree,” Richard Doerflinger of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops told those gathered. “The logic of the pro-life position is that everybody matters. We need to make that much more visible, to be sure it permeates everything we do.”
Among the healthy turnout, was Kelsey Grammer and his wife, Kayte Walsh. The former star of Frasier courted controversy in October when he posted a picture of himself wearing an anti-abortion T-shirt that compared the debate about abortion with the gun control debate.
“This is not a shirt about gun control. It’s simply a response to the fact that when children are the victims of gun violence, the world is outraged. When children are the victims of abortion violence, the world barely notices,” Grammer said at the time.
With a presidential election due in November, this year's rally has a political edge to it. Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, drew loud cheers with her claim, "You can bet that I will win this fight against Hillary Clinton."
The next president, Fiorina said, "will decide whether we force taxpayers to fund the political arm of the abortion industry", meaning Planned Parenthood. "Ours is a fight for the character of our nation," Fiorina added. "For the value of life. It is a fight that we must win to take our country back, and citizens, we must take our country back."
Patrick Kelly, the Knights of Columbus vice president for public policy, said opponents of the pro-life movement, "insist on dividing and bullying those who disagree with them by speaking of a fictional war on women. Our movement, the movement to protect human life, is different. It is built by you, the grassroots. … We come here to show that we cannot be intimidated."
Republican Chris Smith, of New Jersey, who is co-chairman of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, praised efforts by state legislatures in passing laws against abortion. "The gains have been historic - 282 pro-life laws have been enacted since 2010 including laws to stop dismemberment abortions, require a 72-hour waiting period, and informed consent," Smith said.
Smith, a Catholic, said the House override vote of President Barack Obama's recent veto of a bill removing all federal funding from Planned Parenthood was scheduled for next week.
This year's march was the first time that the evangelical community was formally involved. "We are grateful for your leadership on the culture of life," said Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family. "It's taken us time to come to the party, but we are here with you!"
Daly also was headlining the first major pro-life conference for evangelicals to be held in conjunction with the March for Life.