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Arizonans join hundreds of thousands at pro-life march on Supreme Court

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WASHINGTON – After raising money to fund the 2,000-mile trip to Washington, the students from St. Mary’s Catholic High School in Phoenix stood on the muddy National Mall with hundreds of thousands of others at the annual March for Life.

But they said it was all worth it.

“We’re here to represent all the young people who are pro-life,” said Ella Sullivan, a St. Mary’s junior, as she and her classmates waited for the rally to begin.

She was one of at least 26 Valley students – 21 from St. Mary’s and five from Notre Dame Preparatory High School – who gathered to hear speeches, advocate and march to the Supreme Court on the 42nd anniversary of its Roe v. Wade decision, which recognized a woman’s right to have an abortion.

They sang, they chanted, they prayed and they heard from pro-life lawmakers on a stage near the Washington Monument. Some in the upbeat crowd sang pop songs altered with pro-life lyrics.

Ella and her classmates were surrounded by others chanting, “We are the pro-life generation.” Organizers for the event proudly announced during the rally that the March for Life was becoming “bigger and younger every year,” and urged those at the rally to get the word out through social media, using #whywemarch.

The rally came as House leaders withdrew a planned vote on a bill sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Glendale, that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of gestation. Instead, the House passed a separate bill, on a 242-179 vote, that would prohibit federal funding for abortions.

Arizona representatives split along party lines on the vote. with Republicans supporting the ban and Democrats opposing it.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., assured a cheering crowd that Franks’ “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” would get a vote later in the session. Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, R-Wash., assured the crowd that she would work hard to pass Franks’ bill.

“I stand here today committed to passing the Pain-Capable Unborn Protection Act in the House of Representatives,” she said.

According to a 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center, 51 percent of people in the U.S. think abortions should be legal in “all or most cases,” compared to 43 percent of people who think abortions should be illegal in “all or most cases.”

In Arizona, abortions were performed at a rate of 10.9 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 in 2011, the most recent numbers available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The average rate for the 46 states that reported abortion statistics that year was 13.9 per 1,000 women, the CDC said.

St. Mary’s has sent students to the March for Life rallies in Washington and San Francisco for the past 10 years, said Kellie Taylor, director of campus evangelization at St. Mary’s. But the school does not pay for the trip, which starts with what Ella said was about $600 in air fare, in addition to meals and other expenses.

“Most of these kids are on full scholarships from the church so it’s a huge sacrifice for them to come out here,” Taylor said. “Young people are so pro-life, and we need to spread that message.”

The students arrived Tuesday and have attended pro-life events throughout the week, missing out on school and warmer weather to support a cause they said they strongly believe in.

“They say everyone has a mission, and you never know someone who was aborted could have found the cure to cancer or could have been the next president,” said Saul Roman, a St. Mary’s senior who last year attended the rally in San Francisco. “These kids don’t have a voice which means that we have to go harder to help save them.”