More than a thousand Minnesotans, bundled in jackets and hats soggy from snow, packed into the Capitol's rotunda Monday to rally against abortion.
"Despite the snowstorm, the crowd here today is evidence Minnesota is a pro-life state," House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, told the group gathered on the 45th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision to legalize abortion.
The annual March for Life event drew supporters from across the state and more than two dozen Republican political leaders.
Mary Lou Jasken, 75, trekked down from Alexandria to attend her first March for Life at the State Capitol. She estimated she has written hundreds of letters to legislators over the years in opposition to abortion.
There were also many young people in the crowd, including students from Chesterton Academy, a Christian school in Edina and St. Paul, who attended the national March for Life on Friday in Washington, D.C. Rachel Morgan, 17, of Hopkins, was one of those students.
"It gives hope that we're here to the old-timers who have been here for 45 years," Morgan said, as her friends chanted that their generation would end abortion.
Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach drew big applause at the rally. Fischbach is in a constitutional battle with Democrats to keep her state Senate seat while also serving as lieutenant governor. As Senate president, by law she ascended to fill the lieutenant governor post vacated by Tina Smith when she replaced Al Franken in the U.S. Senate.
"I will continue my commitment to make Minnesota safer for unborn children and for every single person who lives here," Fischbach told attendees. Her husband, Scott Fischbach, is executive director of Minnesota Concerned Citizens for Life (MCCL), which organized Monday's rally.
Cathy Blaeser, MCCL's treasurer, said the event reminds the public and legislators that they believe the Supreme Court's ruling needs to change.
"This issue is more important than the weather," Blaeser said. "It's more important than the people's comfort. The lives of these women and these babies is much more important than that."
Daudt highlighted past House bills that would have prohibited the use of taxpayer funds for abortions and required Minnesota clinics to be licensed and inspected. Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed both of the bills. They will push for those bills again this year, as well as legislation to show ultrasound images to women who are considering an abortion, Daudt said.
Minnesota NOW, a group that supports abortion access, tried to pull together a counterprotest outside the Capitol, but only two people showed up to stand in the snow, said Ami Wazlawik, the organization's president.
"We believe in a woman's right to make her own reproductive choices and we're willing to be out here and stand up for those," she said, noting that she hopes to help organize a bigger protest at the next March for Life.
Ryan Faircloth is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.