WASHINGTON (AP) -- Tens of thousands of abortion opponents rallied Thursday on the National Mall to mark the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade amid concerns they could face political setbacks under the new president.
The noon rally and subsequent march to the Supreme Court came two days after the swearing-in of President Barack Obama, which many at the rally said emphasized their need to become more vocal with their message.
Among those attending the rally was Kirk Kramer of Cottage City, Md., who held up a sign reading: "The Audacity Of Hope: No More Roe."
Kramer, a Democrat, said he has mixed feelings about Obama. He supports the president's position on Iraq but said he was concerned about statements Obama made during the campaign indicating support for the Freedom of Choice Act, which would overrule many state-level restrictions on access to abortion.
"Love always finds a way. There's a way we can find for every pregnant woman to have a child or give it up for adoption," he said.
In a letter posted on their Web site, organizers invited Obama to speak at Thursday's rally.
"America needs your strong leadership as president of all the people to stop the intentional killing of an estimated 3,000 pre-born boys and girls each day and the brutalizing of mind, heart and body of pregnant mothers," the letter states.
Obama, who did not attend the rally, issued a statement Thursday saying the government "should not intrude on our most private family matters" and reaffirming his support for abortion rights.
"While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue, no matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion, and support women and families in the choices they make," Obama said.
A small group of abortion-rights supporters also gathered in front of the Supreme Court on Thursday for a candlelight vigil commemorating Roe v. Wade.
Lisa King, of D.C., said she is disappointed that Obama did not immediately move to overturn the so-called "global gag rule," which denies U.S. funds to any international family planning group that provides abortion-related services or information.
"I'm just waiting and seeing really," King said. "I don't have any huge expectations just because he's a Democrat."
She said she worries the abortion issue will be a low priority, given all the other problems that Obama faces.
President George W. Bush regularly voiced support for those attending the annual anti-abortion rally. In audio remarks broadcast to demonstrators last year, he said biology confirms that from the start, each unborn child is a separate individual with his or her own genetic code.
American public opinion about abortion has been fairly stable in recent decades, with polls nearly always finding a narrow majority saying the procedure should be legal in all or most cases.
As many as 400,000 anti-abortion activists were expected. About 20,000 young Catholics attended a concert and mass at the Verizon Center early Thursday.
Police planned to temporarily close the route and cross streets to vehicular traffic during the march.
A march at about 11:30 a.m. from the Verizon Center to the Mall required temporary closures along 7th Street NW from F Street to Madison Drive.