WASHINGTON – Mandy Smith got off the Smithsonian Metro stop escalator and immediately grabbed a sign from March for Life volunteers. “Defend life,” it read.

“I’m here because my mom was pregnant with me in high school,” said Smith, clutching her sign to her chest. “She could have easily aborted, but she chose life.”

Smith, 20, traveled to Washington with a group of 150 other students from Hillsdale College in Michigan, where she is a sophomore. They were among thousands of attendees at the 39th annual March for Life. The event, held Monday, protests the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe V. wade decision, a landmark ruling legalizing abortion.

Protestors came out in droves to support an anti-abortion stance on the issue, despite cold, rainy weather.

Anti-abortion protestors make their way down the National Mall in the 39th Annual March for Life. (Rachel Morello/Medill)

The Hillsdale group was not the biggest in attendance, but it was representative of the youthful group on the National Mall – college students and high schoolers trekking to the nation’s capital to take part in the march and rally.

Carly Steinlage, 18, traveled by plane from Benedictine University in Illinois. She was one of the lucky few who had not come in on one of the school’s charter buses, which broke down and arrived in Washington after a grueling 35-hour trip.

“We’re here for the babies,” said Steinlage. “Maybe one day, it will all change.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, delivered opening remarks to the demonstrators. He was joined by about two-dozen members of Congress, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. The Republican lawmakers urged marchers to oppose the reelection of President Obama, who supports abortion rights.

McCarthy said Congress has made some progress on anti-abortion issues.

“When I stood here a year ago, we committed to finding a way to ensure life is protected by every state…what a difference one year makes,” said McCarthy. “In spite of being met with obstacles, the House stood strong and we succeeded in reinstating a ban on federal and local funds being used for abortion right here in D.C.”

Many lawmakers acknowledged the presence of youth in attendance, thanking them for their time and support.

Jim Talkington, 46, who traveled from St. Louis with his 13-year old son, shared that sentiment.

“I’m definitely excited about the young people here, because they’re certainly the future,” Talkington said.

One of those young people was Kristina Maggio. She came to the march from Long Island in New York. Maggio, 17, has been a participant every year since she was five years old. She believes that the turnout of young people sends a message not only to the government, but to their peers, she said.

“We’re the next generation – what happens now affects us more than it affects older people,” said Maggio. “By us being here, it’s kind of an example for kids our age.”