A clump of teenagers carrying signs huddled Wednesday afternoon on a patch of snow-covered grass across from a stage on the National Mall.
The Rev. George Stewart from St. Brendan's Parish in the Bronx, a slim man with a gray beard, stood just in front of the teens. The snowy weather doubled the travel time, and of the 52 students that had originally registered for the trip, only 27 came.
But Stewart felt the long journey from New York was worth it. He says events like this – the March for Life in Washington, D.C. – encourage and embolden young people.
"I think a day like today gives people permission to be pro-life," he says.
The March for Life takes place every January to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Despite snow on the sidewalks and below-freezing temperatures, thousands from across the country joined Wednesday's 41st annual event, which included a rally on the mall followed by a trek to the Supreme Court.
On the mall, Christian singer Matt Maher warmed up the crowd before March for Life Education and Defense Fund President Jeanne Monahan and Chairman Patrick Kelly took the stage. Monahan excitedly read a tweet sent that morning by Pope Francis.
"I join the March for Life in Washington with my prayers," the pope said. "May God help us respect all life, especially the most vulnerable."
Monahan told the crowd she is tired of hearing about a "war on women," calling abortion a "war on mothers" and saying the procedure is "anti-woman, anti-family, anti-man – it's obviously anti-baby."
She also launched into a theme of this year's march: adoption.
"For every one baby that's adopted in this country, 64 are aborted," she said.
The usual political chatter also swirled around the march, with the anti-abortion movement having made strong progress at the state level in the last few years.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., also addressed the marchers.
"I'm ... proud to announce that this week the House will vote once and for all to end taxpayer funding for abortion," he said, followed by the crowd shouting its approval.
Along with the parents who brought their children to the march, there were hundreds of teenagers, with some wearing stickers that said, "I'm worth waiting for." Some carried signs that read "#TEAMLIFE" on one side and "I Am the Pro-Life Generation" on the other.
In a phone call after the march, Monahan told U.S. News that while the march is a grass-roots event, she has tried to improve outreach strategies by using social media. March for Life has built Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts, and Monahan is planning a webinar for later in the year.
She says she also tries to adopt an open stance.
"A number of my friends, some very close friends, do not see eye-to-eye with me on this issue. And sometimes that's very painful, since it's a very important part of my life, especially professionally, but I learn so much from them," she says. "And they learn from me."
"I'm not trying to say that 'life isn't life isn't life' – it absolutely is," she adds later. "But gosh, we have to dialogue about these issues."
At the end of the march, 11-year-old Trinity Merrill was bundled up in a zebra-striped jacket, blue pants, a hat and a scarf. She walked from the Capitol building to Union Station with a plastic bag wrapped around her right boot, because she said the snow had leaked into it.
Trinity's bangs hung in her eyes. Her family drove all day and night from Willow Springs, Mo., to make it to the march – Trinity's first.
She came to help stop abortion "because it's basically murder," she says. "If someone had aborted you, you wouldn't even be here."