By Katharine Jackson
WASHINGTON, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Anti-abortion activists gathered in Washington on Friday for the 46th March for Life, which will end in a rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court to protest the ruling that effectively legalized abortion nationwide more than four decades ago.
The event is the largest annual gathering in the United States of opponents of the Supreme Court's 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, which found that certain state laws outlawing abortion were an unconstitutional violation of a woman's right to privacy.
President Donald Trump last year addressed the rally via a video link, decrying the nation's "permissive" abortion laws.
During his 2016 campaign, Trump vowed to appoint Supreme Court justices he believed would overturn Roe. He has since appointed two justices to the court - Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh - cementing the court's 6-3 conservative-leaning majority.
Since the heated Senate confirmation hearings for Kavanaugh, the court has steered clear of some cases on volatile social issues involving abortion.
Speakers at this year's rally include Congressman Dan Lipinski, a Democrat, and Congressman Chris Smith, a Republican, along with Ben Shapiro, a conservative political commentator.
March for Life organizers said the ongoing partial government shutdown, caused by a political standoff over funding for Trump's desired expansion of barriers on the U.S.-Mexican border, would not affect their march.
Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to speak at a March for Life dinner on Friday.
(Additional reporting and writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Berkrot)
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