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Abortion Opponents Unite on the Mall

"Young people want a cause, and this is the greatest cause ever -- the cause of life, the culture of life," Thomason said.

Standing in the snow outside MCI Center as hundreds streamed by to meet the larger march beginning about a half-mile away, Maryann Tyrer, 38, of Kernersville, N.C., said it was her second trip to the annual march.

Participants in the March for Life make their way up Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court, where they called for the overturn of Roe v. Wade. (Photos Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)

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A teacher at Bishop McGuiness High School in Kernersville, Tyrer came to Washington early Sunday morning with 130 students in three buses. The group had to delay its departure from North Carolina by a few hours because of snow, she said. The activists made it into Washington late Sunday afternoon and slept on a gymnasium floor at Catholic University.

"We're here to make a stand for life in all its stages," she said. "We hope the presence of this huge crowd will send a message to our elected leaders that a huge portion of the electorate is pro-life."

Thousands of placards that said "Fight for Life" were stacked like firewood against MCI Center's outer walls, awaiting the thousands of celebrants who would join the thousands already at the Ellipse.

As he has since 2001, Bush spoke to the gathering masses over a loudspeaker system via telephone. Yesterday, he spoke from the presidential retreat at Camp David. In past years, he has addressed the crowd, but never in person.

Marchers chanting the prayers of the rosary moved swiftly and steadily up Constitution Avenue, bearing signs that said "Abortion is Homicide" and "Pro-Vida," or "pro-life" in Spanish.

Organizers estimated the crowd at 100,000. Following common practice with large gatherings on the Mall, law enforcement officials did not provide a crowd estimate. The march appeared to fill up much of Constitution Avenue for the two-mile distance between the Ellipse and the Supreme Court, and at times marchers were shoulder-to-shoulder for the entire walkable width of the street.

The march appeared to be nonconfrontational and often was quiet, except for occasional chants of "Hey ho, hey ho! Roe v. Wade has got to go!"

The antiabortion marchers encountered several small clusters of counter-demonstrators, but there appeared to be few confrontations between the groups. D.C. police and U.S. Park Police reported no arrests or disturbances.

A handful of National Organization for Women counter-demonstrators met the march near the steps of the Supreme Court. Holding signs that said, "Keep Abortion Legal," the small group exchanged words with antiabortion activists, but nobody appeared to raise their voices.

Staff writers Michael A. Fletcher and Del Quentin Wilber contributed to this report.

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