Anti-abortion activists at a protest Thursday outside the offices of Planned Parenthood in Washington, D.C. Friday, hundreds of thousands are expected at the March for Life rally. (Brendan Smialowski /AFP/Getty Images)
Hundreds of thousands are expected at the annual event. Organizers put their emphasis on attracting church groups and rallying youth with social media
Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to fill the National Mall on Friday to protest the 40-year-old landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the first trimester.
Buses are shuttling in teens and young adults from all over the country -- drawn by social media and church youth groups -- for the annual March for Life.
Pope Benedict sent them his encouragement by way his personal Twitter account,@pontifex : "I join all those marching for life from afar, and pray that political leaders will protect the unborn and promote a culture of life," he posted early Friday morning.
"We are expecting record-breaking crowds -- 80% under the age of 20," said Jeanne Monahan, president of the March for Life Education & Defense Fund. "Mostly teenagers come and we get a lot of high school groups."
This is Monahan's first year leading the march. Nellie Gray, who had led the anti-abortion demonstrators every year since the Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion in 1973, died in August at age 88.
This year, Monahan said, "We want to appeal to the younger crowd, so we made big changes. We shortened the program from longer than two hours to an hour, picked speakers who are more engaging and we are deeply engaging social media."
According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, 37% of Americans do not know that Roe v. Wade dealt with the issue of abortion. Among the age group targeted by the March for Life, the number is higher -- 57% of adults under age 30 don't know what the case is about.
Americans remain divided on abortion, according to a recent USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. Significantly more Americans -- 53% to 29% -- want the decision kept in place rather than overturned. Another 18% have no opinion, the highest level of uncertainty Gallup has recorded on the issue.
Sydney Goldstein, 16, of Charlotte, is heading to the march with about 30 students from her government class at Charlotte Christian School.
"I am going to speak for the babies that are dying every day that don't have a voice to speak for themselves," Goldstein said. "This is one way to voice my opinion because I cannot vote."
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SOURCE: USA Today