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By Andrew Rafferty

Republican presidential candidates aggressively courted anti-abortion activists on Friday, with some linking the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision to legalize abortion with last month’s ruling that cleared the way for same-sex marriage nationwide.

“I gave many speeches during my presidential campaign, and prior to that my Senate career, talking about Roe v. Wade being the cancer that is infecting the body of America,” former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said, referencing the landmark abortion ruling. “And you saw Roe and its subsequent decisions bear its ugly head in the case of the gay marriage decision just a few days ago.”

Santorum, along with fellow GOP presidential candidates Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, and Ben Carson, courted social conservatives gathered in New Orleans for the three-day National Right to Life Convention. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal addressed the group Thursday, while Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush submitted video messages.

"If the court is just going to be a public opinion poll ... we should just get rid of it," Jindal said.

Perry told the crowd, “If I’m the president of the United States and I have the opportunity to put individuals on the United States Supreme Court, they will not be squishy.”

Candidates hoping to break out of the crowded GOP field touted their strong social conservative credentials, sometimes using harsh rhetoric to attack abortion-rights advocates.

“The baby killers, that’s what they do, they manipulate you into thinking that this is not a human being and they capitalize on people’s lack of knowledge and understanding,” said Carson, a former pediatric neurosurgeon.

Carson, Perry and Rubio each called the ultrasound the best argument for the anti-abortion movement.

“Every single person alive today was once that grainy ultrasound picture,” Rubio said. “And it is deeply disturbing for us to think of anyone — whether a parent, or a politician, or a Supreme Court justice — having a debate about our own viability as a person, at that stage or any stage.”

-- NBC's Emily Gold and Alex Stambaugh contributed to this report.