Image: Anti-abortion activists
Alex Wong  /  Getty Images
Abortion opponents participate in the annual "March for Life" event on Thursday in Washington, D.C. The event was to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v Wade Supreme Court abortion ruling.
updated 1/22/2009 6:50:02 PM ET 2009-01-22T23:50:02

Tens of thousands of abortion opponents rallied Thursday on the National Mall to mark the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade amid concerns they could face political setbacks under the new president.

The rally and subsequent march to the Supreme Court comes two days after the swearing-in of Barack Obama, which many at the rally said emphasized their need to become more vocal with their message.

Among those attending the rally was Kirk Kramer of Cottage City, Md., who held up a sign reading: “The Audacity Of Hope: No More Roe.”

Kramer, a Democrat, said he has mixed feelings about Obama. He supports the president’s position on Iraq but said he was concerned about statements Obama made during the campaign indicating his support for the Freedom of Choice Act, which would overrule many state-level restrictions on access to abortion.

“Love always finds a way. There’s a way we can find for every pregnant woman to have a child or give it up for adoption,” he said.

In a letter posted on their Web site, organizers invited Obama to speak at Thursday’s rally, though there was no indication that he planned to attend.

“America needs your strong leadership as president of all the people to stop the intentional killing of an estimated 3,000 pre-born boys and girls each day and the brutalizing of mind, heart and body of pregnant mothers,” the letter states.

In a statement, Obama reiterated his support for Roe V. Wade. "We are reminded that this decision not only protects women's health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters," he said. "I remain committed to protecting a woman's right to choose."

In contrast, President George W. Bush regularly voiced support for those attending the rally. In audio remarks broadcast to demonstrators last year, he said biology confirms that from the start, each unborn child is a separate individual with his or her own genetic code.

American public opinion about abortion has been fairly stable in recent decades, with polls nearly always finding a narrow majority saying the procedure should be legal in all or most cases.

Lyn Williams, of State College, Pa., said she did not vote for Obama because she said he ran a left-wing ticket, but that she’s been pleased with his more moderate choices for his Cabinet.

“Maybe he’s going to surprise us, and I’m praying he will,” she said.

The rally stretched for about three blocks on the Mall and included many young people.

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