WASHINGTON — Thousands of abortion opponents confronted wind chills in the single digits on Wednesday to rally and march on Capitol Hill to protest legalized abortion, with a signal of support from Pope Francis.
The annual ‘‘March for Life’’ is held every January on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 decision that declared a constitutional right to abortion. The event draws many Catholic high school and college students from across the country for a series of events and prayer vigils that led up to a rally and march on the snow-covered National Mall.
Francis, who has emphasized a broader focus on poverty beyond divisive issues, sent his support for the antiabortion march.
‘‘I join the March for Life in Washington with my prayers,’’ the pope tweeted. ‘‘May God help us respect all life, especially the most vulnerable.’’
President Obama also issued a statement Wednesday, saying the 41st anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision is a chance to ‘‘recommit ourselves to the decision’s guiding principle: that every woman should be able to make her own choices about her body and her health.’’
The president also said the nation should resolve to protect a woman’s access to health care, her right to privacy, and to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. The theme of this year’s march was ‘‘Adoption: A Noble Decision,’’ as an alternative to abortion, organizers said. Abortion protesters came from Georgia, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and beyond. The crowd included many young people, including high school and college students from Chicago, Cleveland, and elsewhere. Many held signs that read ‘‘#TeamLife.’’
While there were mostly cheers and upbeat chants, the crowd booed when House majority leader Eric Cantor of Virginia said there had been an expansion of abortion coverage in the nation’s health care overhaul. The march began on the National Mall, then protesters marched along Constitution Avenue to Capitol Hill and the Supreme Court.