March for Life 2020 brings large crowds to Mall, downtown DC

Tens of thousands crowded into a packed Constitution Avenue in downtown Washington, D.C. during the March for Life, from near the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol building. (WTOP/Alejandro Alvarez)
A rallygoer at the 47th annual March for Life holds a sign. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)
An attendee of the 2020 March for Life holds an anti-abortion sign near the National Archives building in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 24, 2020. (WTOP/Alejandro Alvarez)
Along the route of the 47th annual March For Life, a group set this display up in front of the National Museum of American History. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)
Vaccine skeptics — activists who reject robust science in support of the health benefits of vaccines — gather outside the National Archives ahead of the March for Life in downtown Washington, D.C. on Jan. 24, 2020. (WTOP/Alejandro Alvarez)
Participants in the March for Life hold a speak-out in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building following a march down Constitution Avenue, featuring women who said they regretted their decision to carry out an abortion. (WTOP/Alejandro Alvarez)
March for Life attendees carry a sign at the 47th annual event. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)
Anti-abortion activists hold signs outside the U.S. Supreme Court building following the March for Life on Jan. 24. (WTOP/Alejandro Alvarez)
Supports of President Donald Trump attend the March for Life in downtown Washington, D.C. (WTOP/Alejandro Alvarez)
Anti-abortion activists hold signs outside the U.S. Supreme Court building following the March for Life on Jan. 24. (WTOP/Alejandro Alvarez)
An anti-abortion activist hold signs outside the U.S. Supreme Court building at the finish line for the annual March for Life. The 2020 march featured several youth groups who traveled to the D.C. event from across the country. (WTOP/Alejandro Alvarez)
Pro-abortion activists hold a counter-demonstration outside the Supreme Court as the March for Life passes. The annual March for Life consistently sees smaller counter-protests by abortion rights groups active in the D.C. region, including Planned Parenthood and the Feminist Majority Foundation. (WTOP/Alejandro Alvarez)
A man selling merchandise stands along the route of the 47th March for Life in downtown D.C. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)
An anti-abortion youth group sings and chants ahead of the March for Life near the National Archives. (WTOP/Alejandro Alvarez)
An anti-abortion youth group sings and chants ahead of the March for Life near the National Archives. (WTOP/Alejandro Alvarez)
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Large crowds of abortion rights opponents streamed toward the National Mall Friday morning for the 47th annual March for Life event, which included — for the first time — an address by the U.S. president.

President Donald Trump announced on Twitter earlier this week he would attend, making him the first sitting president to be at the rally in person. In past years, he has sent members of his administration and spoken via a video link.

“Unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House,” Trump said to cheers from the crowd, pointing to two Supreme Court justices and dozens of federal judges he has nominated in his three years in office.

Trump is famously a late convert to the anti-abortion-rights cause. Four years ago, a political committee supporting one of Trump’s Republican rivals unveiled an ad slamming his views on abortion, complete with footage from a 1999 interview in which he declared, “I am pro-choice in every respect.”

In his speech Friday, Trump addressed the crowd for about 15 minutes, attacking Democrats for embracing what he labeled “radical and extreme positions” on abortion. At one point saying, “What is going on in Virginia?” before referencing remarks Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam made last winter about late-term abortions that some Republicans said amounted to supporting infanticide.

Attendees said Trump’s presence at the event was important.

“The president being here means a great deal,” said Amy Devore, who traveled with her husband, Drue, from Mount Airy, North Carolina. “We actually now have a president that is standing behind the right to life and … is fully supportive of it.”

Aimee Reehoff from Waukesha, Wisconsin, said: “I think it’s really important that Donald Trump is actually addressing the March for Life this year — he’s the first president to do so. And so that’s, I think, pretty historic.”

Past presidents who opposed abortion, including Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, steered clear of personally attending the march to avoid being too closely associated with demonstrators eager to outlaw the procedure. They sent remarks for others to deliver, spoke via telephone hookup or invited organizers to the White House — but never appeared at the march.

The president’s remarks were followed by a march up Constitution Avenue.

This year’s rally saw stepped-up security due to the president’s presence. Large crowds began gathering at a Secret Service security checkpoint on the Mall — at 14th Street Northwest between Madison and Jefferson drives — to pass through magnetometers.

There are several streets in downtown D.C. closed for the event, as well as parking restrictions and Metro changes. Most of the closures last until 3 p.m.

You can find out more about those, and about the event, on WTOP’s FAQ page.

The March for Life marks the 47th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Organizers consider abortion a human-rights violation. For more information on the event, check the organizers’ website.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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