WASHINGTON — Hundreds of anti-abortion advocates Thursday kicked off the 2019 March for Life Conference and Expo in advance of the annual march Friday in which protesters call for the overthrow of protections in Roe v. Wade.

David Daleidan told the anti-abortion crowd that his organization, The Center for Medical Progress, is “dedicated to monitoring and reporting on medical ethics and advances.” Daleidan was responsible for the undercover video series in 2015 that showed Planned Parenthood clinics and executives discussing the harvesting and sale of aborted fetal body parts.

Following the release of the video, Planned Parenthood said the footage was misleadingly edited and that the organization donates tissue following legal guidelines and with permitted reimbursements for expenses, according to NPR.

“The revelations of CMP’s undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood abortion providers callously negotiating the sale of tiny baby hearts, livers and brains shocked the nation and led to incredible results for the protection of unborn children,” Daleidan said. He noted the Trump administration’s move to prevent nearly $60 million in grants to Planned Parenthood.

Jeanne McMahon displays a sign at the March for Life Expo saying, “We March with Christ for Life.” McMahon is a member of Divine Mercy for America, a group based in Texas working “for the re-Christianization of the U.S.” (Henry Erlandson/MNS)The Human Life Alliance set up a booth at the March for Life Expo promoting “awareness of the inherent dignity and personhood of human life, born and preborn.” Chris Rogers (left) is a graphic designer for the Minneapolis-based organization. (Henry Erlandson/MNS)Johannes (left) and Elizabeth (middle) traveled with their mother, Monica (right), from Switzerland to attend the March for Life. Johannes and Elizabeth are both members of Youth for Life Switzerland back home. (Henry Erlandson/MNS)Father Frank Pavone takes a photo with a woman holding a “MAKE UNBORN BABIES GREAT AGAIN” sign. Father Pavone is the National Director of Priests for Life and a staunch pro-life advocate. (Henry Erlandson/MNS)Students from around the country gathered for the March for Life youth rally. Many will be at tomorrow’s March for Life, which begins at 1 p.m. and finishes at the Supreme Court and Capitol buildings. (Henry Erlandson/MNS)People lunge for a t-shirt tossed into the crowd at the March for Life’s youth rally Thursday. (Henry Erlandson/MNS)The President of the March for Life, Jeanne Mancini, addresses the crowd at the youth rally about the importance of the March for Life. (Henry Erlandson/MNS)

Others spoke to the group about the science behind defining human life.

“Modern science is illuminating and clarifying the details so we can speak the truth with confidence,” said Dr. Grazie Christie, radiologist and policy adviser for the Catholic Association. Christie said developments in ultrasound technology have made it easier to understand and visualize the stages of life for fetuses.

Patti Smith, who came to the March for Life Expo with the Silent No More Awareness Campaign – a Christian group that offers help to women who regret having abortions, said she struggled with substance abuse after having two abortions, the first of which came just after the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

“I couldn’t get past the guilt and it wasn’t until I went to healing that I realized what I had done. I used to be pro-choice and the only reason was to justify my actions,” she said.

Now Smith works with Rachel’s Hope Healing Ministry to help women who have had miscarriages or abortions.

Connie Eller, who has participated in the March for Life rally since 1992, said her goal is to bring someone new every year to spread the pro-life message. Eller is the founder of Missouri Blacks for Life, based out of St. Louis, Missouri, that informs local communities about the anti-abortion message. She called the March for Life a “blanket for unity” that can only be witnessed by participating.

The March for Life continues Friday at 10 a.m. with an address from Ben Shapiro, a conservative commentator, a live recording of his show and a rally at the Supreme Court and Capitol buildings.