WASHINGTON – In the midst of a cold freeze gripping the capital, thousands of people gathered Wednesday on the National Mall to protest federal funding for abortions and promote adoption on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which legalized the procedure in the U.S.

Marking 41 years since the Supreme Court’s historic decision, the annual anti-abortion March for Life rally drew children and adults alike despite temperatures just above single digits and icy snow on the ground.

“You think about why you’re here and why you’re doing this and just push through it because it’s the right thing to do,” said Coel Schultz, an Illinois high school senior.

Prior to the march, members of Congress and anti-abortion activists stressed the importance of the rally in the fight to overturn the landmark ruling at a Family Research Council conference.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus spoke briefly about the GOP’s role as “pro-life party” that supports the March for Life as part of the party’s platform and values. The RNC’s annual winter meeting was delayed this year as Priebus and other high-profile party members — including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the rally’s keynote speaker — participated in the day’s events.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., said that anti-abortion advocates are “about to make some big changes in this country.”

“This generation of young people are more pro-life than their parents,” he said.

Several members of Congress highlighted anti-abortion legislation currently making its way through Congress, including a proposal to make it easier for fathers to find their adopted children and legislation that would end federal funding for abortions.

“It’s time for leaders in Washington, DC to quit upholding abortion and start promoting adoption,” said Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo.

Although several participants expressed the need to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the Supreme Court recently declined to hear a case that struck down a ban on abortions in Arizona after 20 weeks. However, last week the justices heard arguments on the legality of a Massachusetts law creating 35-foot buffer zones around abortion clinics in the state, and in the coming months the court will also review whether contraception provisions in the Affordable Care Act conflict with religious liberties.

Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said subsidies that cover abortion under the Affordable Care Act are a crucial flaw in the law.

“We do actually need a permanent change in law,” he said.

Anti-abortion leaders also spoke of crafting a message that would reach a broader cross section of Americans. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, parents on the popular TLC show “19 and Counting,” called for better support for pregnant women and encouraged anti-abortion Christian organizations to field more political candidates.

“The Roe decision does not cause Americans to get abortions — it merely allows them to,” said Joe Carter, a communications director for the Southern Baptist Convention. “What we should be focused on is persuading people to respect human life.”