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Amongst the bustling crowd, a bright pink poster shot into the sky. 

Laura Kurtenbach, a New Jersey native, proudly displayed her sign high in the air at the 47th annual National March for Life in Washington D.C.. Her poster showed a pregnant woman and a baby inside her womb; next to the mother’s belly were the words: “Love them both.”

“Saying we love them both means we love the woman just as much as we love the baby,” Kurtenbach explained. It’s a fitting statement for the March’s theme this year: “Life empowers: pro-life is pro-women.”

The topic is also personal for Kurtenbach, who had an abortion when she was just 18. Now, she marches in memory of her son. 

“I have the forgiveness of the Lord, and I’m totally healed … so I do whatever I can to be a voice for the voiceless,” Kurtenbach said. “I have my baby Angelo, he’s in heaven, and one day I'm going to be seeing him.”

The National March for Life, which was held on Friday, Jan. 24, drew tens of thousands of pro-lifers to the nation’s capital as people from across the country came out to support life. This year’s march fell two days after the 47th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion. 

“I just want to be a voice for those who don’t have a voice,” said Michelle Iannacone, a parishioner at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Amsterdam. This is the seventh March for Life she’s attended: “We have to do more to recognize the humanity of the unborn.”

Catholics from across the Albany Diocese joined the celebration, many kicking off the day with a Mass led by Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger at St. Patrick’s Church in Washington, D.C. “Every one of us is here because God wants us to be here,” said the Bishop in his homily. “I know that God loves us so much.”

Students from Saratoga Central Catholic High School, Siena College and Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons High School attended the Youth Rally and Mass for Life at the Capital One Arena the morning before the march.

“This movement isn’t meant to alienate anybody,” said Timothy Fenton, a junior at Siena College. “It’s really about let’s come together and celebrate life.” 

“When people hear pro-life they think, oh they’re going to shame me or they’re going to judge me, but when they get to know what we’re all about that’s when you start to see connections starting to form,” said Shelby Ludolph, senior at Siena College.

Before the March - which started on Constitution Avenue and headed toward the Capitol Building - attendees gathered at the National Mall for speeches, music and personal testimonies to life. 

In a historic moment for the movement, President Donald Trump became the first sitting president to address the March for Life in person. 

“All of us here today understand an eternal truth: every child is a precious and sacred gift from God,” President Trump said in his speech. “Together we must protect, cherish and defend the dignity and the sanctity of every human life.”

His appearance was praised by organizers of the March for Life, and while some attendees were wary of the surprise drop-in - which was announced by President Trump on Twitter days before the march - most found the support of the President to be a historic step. 

“I was a little worried that it could be polarized,” Iannacone said, “but he generally seemed concerned about pro-life (issues).” 

As the march started, it was hard not to get swept up in the excitement. People banged drums, blew bells and whistles and sang chants. Teenagers traveling with their schools held their phones high in the air, capturing the sights and sounds of thousands marching as one.

Other marchers held signs in the air or banners from their parish or school as they walked. Many attendees made their own posters, adorning them with glitter or brightly painted words. Others signs showed pictures of marchers with their child or tiny testimonies of their own story: one woman’s sign told of how she was born from rape; another woman’s said she was an abortion survivor. 

“My mom is actually a single mother who found herself having an unplanned pregnancy,” said Ludolph. “She tells me that, from the moment she found out she was pregnant with me, she knew she wanted to keep me ...Throughout my entire life I have watched my mom do whatever was necessary to provide me with the best life she could, and I am so thankful for her and the fact that she chose to keep me.”