By Ian Simpson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Anti-abortion activists marched in Washington on Friday to protest the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal in the United States 40 years ago.
Condemning abortion as an abuse of human rights, people from across the country participated in the March for Life that takes place annually in the nation's capital. The Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling on January 22, 1973, legalized abortion.
Marchers carrying signs that read "Defend Life" and "De-fund Planned Parenthood" crowded the National Mall in freezing temperatures to hear politicians and activists reject abortion and say that opposition to it was rising.
"Abortion truly is the human rights abuse of today," said March of Life director Jeanne Monahan. "The new normal is to be pro-life."
Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum told the protestors that opponents of abortion "stand for love in a world of death."
House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, speaking by video, said he backed bipartisan bills barring government funding for abortion and favored the Hyde Amendment, which largely bans federal funds for abortions except in cases of rape or incest.
Chanting "Hey hey, ho ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go" as they marched under a gray sky and eventually snow, the demonstrators then went to the Supreme Court.
Pope Benedict voiced his support in a tweet that read, "I join all those marching for life from afar, and pray that political leaders will protect the unborn and promote a culture of life."
Organizers had no immediate estimate of the size of the crowd, and U.S. Capitol Police declined to give one.
A recent Pew poll showed that most Americans are opposed to overturning Roe v. Wade.
Battles over abortion have largely shifted from federal courts to statehouses.
One marcher, Brad Basinger, 56, of Manassas, Virginia, said that after 40 years he was losing hope that Roe v. Wade could be overturned. "The moral fabric of our nation is starting to slip. This won't happen in my lifetime," said Basinger, who was attending his seventh consecutive March for Life.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington and Phil Pullella in Rome; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Toni Reinhold)