CHICAGO (CBS) — Nearly 1,000 people attended a Planned Parenthood fundraiser Wednesday marking the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

Protesters hoisting graphic six-foot-tall photographs of aborted fetuses greeted those who attended the fundraiser at the Carnivale restaurant, 702 W. Fulton St.

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Keynote speaker David Axelrod ignored the protesters, but said inside that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s pledge to “get rid of” Planned Parenthood, if elected, helped seal his defeat in November.

The political strategist and former Obama senior adviser brought with him a letter congratulating former Illinois Comptroller and State Sen. Dawn Clark Netsch, who was honored by the group with a lifetime achievement award.

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Netsch was an early supporter of abortion rights. She accepted the award in person, one week after disclosing that she is battling Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The 86-year-old politician struggled to her feet, with assistance, from a wheelchair, and told the crowd, “Keep on doing what you’ve been doing so well. We need it. It’s part of what all of us are about.”

Outside, veteran anti-abortion activist Joseph Scheidler said time was on his side.

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“We don’t expect a whole lot of people to convert tonight (against abortion),” Scheidler said. “But they’ll remember this, and as they get older and begin to face their own judgment, they’ll start thinking was I on the right side or the wrong side, and maybe they’ll decide that the guys out there in the cold were on the right side.”