With the re-election of President Barack Obama, she added, "we just have our walking papers. Now we just feel like we have to keep the battle up."
The large turnout reflected the ongoing relevance of the abortion debate four decades after the decision.
It remains a divisive issue with no dramatic shift in viewpoint on either side; a new Pew Research Center poll finds 63 percent of U.S. adults opposed to overturning Roe, compared to 60 percent in 1992. Earlier this week, abortion opponents marked the anniversary with workshops, prayers and calls for more limits on abortion rights. And even as Obama this week reaffirmed his commitment to "reproductive freedom," state legislatures continue to consider varied restrictions on a woman's ability to receive an abortion.
Among the speakers at Friday's rally was Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator and staunch abortion opponent who last year unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination.
He recalled the love and support the country showed for his young daughter, Bella, who was born with a serious genetic condition and whose illness led him to take some time off from the campaign trail. He cited his daughter's life "she is joyful, she is sweet, she is all about love" as a reason to discourage abortion even in instances when women are told that it would be "better" for their unborn children to have one.
"We all know that death is never better never better. Really what it's about is saying is it would be easier for us, not better for her," he said. "And I'm here to tell you ... Bella is better for us and we are better because of Bella."
He said the anti-abortion cause was made up of people who every day advocate for their position outside abortion clinics and at crisis pregnancy centers.
"This movement is not a bunch of moralizers standing on their mountaintop preaching what is right," Santorum said.
One demonstrator, Mark Fedarko, 44, of Cleveland, said he regularly stands outside of abortion clinics in hopes of discouraging women from going inside.
"There's God's law and man's law," he said. But I follow God's law first. Like it says right here, thou shall not kill. That's the end of the story. We need to protect these children."