Arizonans at March for Life upbeat on pro-life prospects in Washington

Students from St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Gilbert were among the thousands who came to Washington for the annual pro-life march. (Photo by Ariana Bustos/Cronkite News)

Thousands packed the National Mall where speakers who addressed the March for Life included Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump by phone. (Photo by Philip Athey/Cronkite News)

There were only a handful of counter-protesters at the March for Life, but pro-choice groups insist that the fight over abortion rights is far from over. (Photo by Philip Athey/Cronkite News)

After rallying on the National Mall, marchers trek past the Capitol to the Supreme Court, to mark the court’s 1973 ruling recognizing a woman’s right to an abortion. (Photo by Philip Athey/Cronkite News)

Marchers and organizers of the March for Life said they are optimisitic for their cause with a pro-life president and a Republican-controlled Congress. (Photo by Philip Athey/Cronkite News)

Pro-life groups come from across the country for the March for Life, which this year marked the 45th anniversary of the Supreme Courts’ Roe v. Wade ruling. (Photo by Philip Athey/Cronkite News)

WASHINGTON – Gilbert high school senior Melanie Marol complained about the Washington weather but little else Friday, as she joined thousands of pro-life marchers with high hopes for their cause under the Trump administration and a Republican Congress.

“You don’t really hear people talk about abortion that much, but people high up were talking about it, which is what we need,” said Marol, surrounded by fellow young parishioners from St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church, in bright yellow hats and holding pro-life signs.

Optimism and youth were the common themes of the 45th annual March for Life, as tens of thousands rallied on the National Mall before marching to the Supreme Court to mark the anniversary of its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that recognized a woman’s right to an abortion.

The march came the same day that the House passed the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would require doctors to provide medical care to a fetus that survives an abortion – something critics say rarely happens and is covered by existing law. The bill, which has failed repeatedly in the past, passed Friday with all Republicans and only a handful of Democratic votes.

Organizers put the focus on young marchers, like these from St. Mary Madgalene Church in Gilbert, who they say will carry the pro-life fight forward. (Photo by Philip Athey/Cronkite News)

Marchers also heard from Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump, who said in televised comments from the White House that his administration would “always defend the very first right in the Declaration of Independence, and that is the right to life.”

Devon Sanchez, another Gilbert high school senior from St. Mary Magdalene, said he made the trek to Washington “to defend life.”

“I love it, the group and unity of people to defend life and promote love, it’s beautiful,” Sanchez said. “I loved Donald Trump’s speech it did a lot to promote love.”

Under sunny Washington skies on an afternoon when temperatures reached into the 50s, the Gilbert students were part of a sea of marchers singing hymns, carrying signs and bellowing anti-abortion chants as they went down Constitution Avenue. Many in the crowd were young, calling themselves the pro-life generation.

Gilbert high school senior Kyrstal Gondalaz said that “seeing all these people here, I think we will definitely make a change.”

Only a handful of pro-choice protesters could be seen at the event, and they were largely ignored by the pro-life marchers. But Taylor Tucker of Planned Parenthood Arizona said pro-choice groups are not about to give up the fight.

“We’re going to see a women’s march that makes this march dwindle in comparison,” Tucker said of the nationwide marches scheduled this weekend to mark the anniversary of the Women’s March that sprang up in opposition to Trump’s inauguration a year ago.

Lawmakers often vote on pro-life bills to coincide with the March for Life. But this year’s march competed with a potential government shutdown for attention. (Photo by Philip Athey/Cronkite News)

Tucker acknowledged that pro-life groups have been able to “slowly chip away at abortion rights and abortion access” in recent years. But she added that pro-choice groups “have been here for over 101 years and we’re going to survive this” administration.

“We have the money and numbers on our side,” she said. “We’re going to fight like hell.”

Tucson native and pro-lifer Abigail Ethridge said she is ready for that fight.

“I don’t think murder should be allowed,” said Ethridge, who was attending her third March for Life this year. “I think every person from conception until death should be protected, legally.”

Ethridge, a teacher in Washington who said she plans to return to Tucson after this school year, said previous marches like Friday’s have helped spread a pro-life message and led to the closing down of a number of abortion clinics throughout the U.S.

Marol, attending her first march, said it inspired her to do more. She said she is optimistic about the future, with GOP control of Congress and the White House, but also realistic.

“It’s going to take a while to end it, but it’s going step by step,” she said.

-Cronkite News video by Ariana Bustos