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article imageBracing cold can't chill spirits of US anti-abortion marchers

By Anita Chang Beattie (AFP)     Jan 27, 2017 in World

They came by the busload, from cities in places like Iowa, Louisiana and North Dakota. Some felt inspired to march for the first time, while others were veterans of the annual event.

The 44th March for Life took place in the heart of the US capital on Friday, and the bracingly cold weather couldn't chill the spirits of the many thousands of anti-abortion advocates.

"I think it's important to show the rest of the United States that we're not backing down after 43 years," said Christina Erb, a 19-year-old student at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota.

"I think it's always important to show our support for the unborn. It's making an impact on the nation and it's important to continue that and grow the community."

Erb, who was marching for the third time, was part of a 400-strong delegation from her school. They traveled 31 hours straight in a seven-bus caravan to get to the march.

The university group was leading this year's march through downtown Washington, parading alongside the National Mall to the Capitol and the Supreme Court. The school could be easily spotted in the crowd by their matching bright blue and orange beanies.

Pro-life demonstrators march in front of the US Supreme Court during the 44th annual March for Life ...
Pro-life demonstrators march in front of the US Supreme Court during the 44th annual March for Life in Washington, DC

Despite the seriousness of the topic, the day had a convivial atmosphere.

Vendors selling "March for Life" t-shirts set up shop near the entrance to the rally next to the Washington Monument, as did an enterprising street hawker with a pile of large pretzels.

As the event warmed up, Christian music and songs like Kelly Clarkson's "Heartbeat Song" blared from speakers set up around the stage.

Priests, nuns and a group of Franciscan friars in brown robes could be spotted in the crowd, with school groups making up a significant portion of the turnout.

- 'More youthful' -

"(The pro-life movement has) always been energized but it's definitely becoming more youthful... everyone you see here is almost all high school and college age and it's just really breathtaking, actually. I love it," Erb said.

The young protesters waved signs with messages like "I am the pro-life generation" and "Babies can feel joy in the womb," next to a photo of an adorable smiling infant.

Anti-abortion advocates descended on the US capital for an annual march with the White House spotlig...
Anti-abortion advocates descended on the US capital for an annual march with the White House spotlighting the cause and throwing its weight behind the campaign

Fourteen-year-old Claire Taylor, from outside Baltimore, Maryland, was marching for the first time with her mother and sister.

She clutched a colorful homemade sign with a Ronald Reagan quote: "I've noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born."

"It should not be legal to destroy somebody who has nerves and can feel pain," she said.

As for the location of the rally, within sight of the White House, Taylor said it was perfect for reaching the people she wants to hear her message.

"We are trying to get the people making all the important decisions to make the better one," she said.

The rally featured speeches by Vice President Mike Pence, senior White House advisor Kellyanne Conway and religious leaders -- and an ear-splitting performance of electronic dance music.

The crowd wound its way to the Supreme Court, where the future of abortion in the United State could be decided.

There is currently one opening on the high court, and President Donald Trump has pledged to nominate a firmly anti-abortion justice.

If he appoints a second conservative justice during his tenure -- should there be another opening on the bench due to retirement or death -- there is a real possibility that the US law legalizing abortion could be overturned.

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