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Hundreds Brave Chilly Weather For Chance To Witness History

With the Supreme Court poised Tuesday to hear arguments about the health law’s mandate requiring most Americans to buy health insurance, about 200 advocates for and against abortion rights marched outside the court on a sunny, but chilly morning. They carried signs saying, “Abortion is not Health Care,” and “Protect the Law.”

A few feet away, about 100 others gathered at the corner of East Capitol and First Streets, waiting for a chance to get a glimpse of history — via a yellow ticket that would allow them to watch five minutes of the court hearing. It was the second of three days of hearings on the 2010 health law.

The 50 public seats earmarked for people to watch the full two-hour court session had already been claimed by those who had waited in line for days.  But those in line on this cold, but sunny morning for a temporary peek into the court were not dismayed.  And they expressed more interest in the historical significance of the event than the politics.

“I just wanted to say I was there and tell my students about it,” said Cris Welsh, 29, an 11th grade history teacher at Columbine High School in Denver. He said he was taking a cautious view of the law. “Something has to be done about health care in this country,” he said, talking about making  coverage more affordable for more people.

Jeff Miller, 43, of Arlington, Va., said he’s lived in the Washington D.C. area for three year and thought this would be a good day to visit the Court with his godson. While he said he did not feel strongly about the law, he noted his wife’s father has been helped by Massachusetts’ universal coverage law, which many view as a national model.

Wendy Ellis, 45, a health care consultant, said she was also in line for a first-hand glimpse of history being made. For several years, she has worked to improve people’s access to mental health services, and said she believed the law would greatly accelerate these changes.

Watching the protesters, Ellis said she was surprised at the civility among those with opposing views. “I’m surprised it’s not more contentious,” she said. “I think others could learn something,” she added, pointing at the U.S. Capitol across the street.

Lauren Haeurtlein, 26, a third-year law student at Duke University, said she is studying constitutional law and wanted to see those precepts applied to “living history.”