Jan. 18 (UPI) -- Vice President Mike Pence made a surprise visit Friday as abortion opponents gathered in Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life.
Pence, an evangelical Christian, was on the schedule to make remarks at the March for Life dinner later Friday, but his presence at the National Mall was unexpected. His wife, Karen Pence, joined him in presenting a video message from President Donald Trump.
"This is a movement founded on love and grounded in the nobility and dignity of every human life," Trump said. "I will always defend the first right in our Declaration of Independence: the right to life."
This year's march marks the 46th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision guaranteeing abortion rights in the United States. Starting at the National Mall at 1 p.m., the participants marched along Constitution Avenue to the Capitol Building and the Supreme Court.
The event was streamed live on Facebook.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers were scheduled speakers for this year's event, as was conservative pundit Ben Shapiro.
Pence called in to Shapiro's live broadcast from the scene of the march.
"We've got a record of extraordinary progress on the right to life," the vice president said. "This will be the generation that restores the right to life in America."
Abortion rights activists said they're concerned the new Supreme Court, featuring Trump-appointed Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, will impose more restrictions on the procedure and uphold state laws that have been previously ruled unconstitutional.
"This is a time where everything is on the line for me as a doctor," Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen, a physician, said in a recent interview with NPR. "It's about my patients; it's about their lives ... With Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court we are facing a situation where, within the next year, Roe v. Wade could very well be further eroded or overturned."
States like Texas and Iowa have historically had their abortion restrictions challenged in the U.S. court system.