Tens of thousands rally at 19th annual Walk for Life West Coast
By Valerie Schmalz
The first Walk for Life West Coast since the June 24 U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade drew tens of thousands of prolife supporters to San Francisco in a turnout that rivaled crowds before COVID-19.
Among those walking were young people from Oklahoma, Arizona and as well as California and the rest of the West Coast.
“I want to speak for the unborn who don’t have a voice,” said Jesus Garcia, 24, a Cal-State East Bay student from Newark, California, who said this year was his fourth year at the Walk. Garcia held a hand-made sign that said “Abortion is violence against a human life. Not health care or a woman’s right!”
“We are here to support life. We are in favor of life,” said Church of the Assumption parishioner Maria Garibay, who with Kelly Morales and Brandy Garibay set off at 6 a.m. from Tomales to attend the Walk and the Walk for Life Mass preceding it at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption.
The mood at the Jan. 21 Walk, held on the Saturday closest to the anniversary of the Jan. 22, 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, was determined. Following the Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization high court ruling, California voters in November approved by nearly 67 percent Proposition 1 that enshrined a state constitutional amendment legalizing contraception and abortion with no restrictions until birth. Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Democrat supermajority in the state legislature placed a constitutional amendment on the ballot shortly after the Dobbs ruling was published.
“Both Dobbs and Prop 1 have reignited the pro-life movement in California and today’s turnout shows it,” said Eva Muntean, co-chair of the Walk for Life.
“After Roe, we decided to come and bring the prayer here where it was needed,” said Deacon Kevin Stephenson of St. Benedict Parish in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, who with his wife Monica came with 20 high school students from the parish youth group, including two of their own children. Last year, they went to the March for Life in Washington, D.C. “It’s our kids who wanted to come here. We just followed the Holy Spirit.”
Pro-abortion protestors came out in greater numbers too, albeit much smaller, with about 200 gathered on the corner jeering often obscene slogans and waving signs as the crowd exited Civic Center Plaza after the hourlong Walk rally with speakers. The sidewalk and even parts of the edifice of the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption were defaced with vile graffiti during the night before the Walk for Life Mass held just before the Walk each year.
“They do not know what to do because they have realized for the first time in 49 years that they have to defend this barbaric surgery that is built on violence and you cannot defend it,” said Shawn Carney, co-founder, president and CEO of 40 Days for Life, noting that across the U.S. pregnancy resource centers outnumber abortion providers 5 to 1.
San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone opened the rally with a prayer. “I am so grateful to God, and I am so grateful to all of you, for this day we have been waiting for, for 50 years,” Archbishop Cordileone said.
Each of the speakers urged continued prayer and work for life.
“Women do not just show up and have an abortion,” said speaker Angela Minter, president and co-founder of Sisters For Life, Inc., who has dedicated her life to mobilize particularly the historically black church to end abortion. The married mother of three living children had two abortions in her late teens. “Someone needed to enter my world and tell me that you can do it, you can have your baby–but there was no one there to do it,” Minter said.
Rebecca Kiessling, an attorney and international prolife speaker, was born after her mother was raped. She told the crowd, “I did not deserve the death penalty because of the crime of my biological father.”
Rev. Clenard Childress Jr. has spoken at almost every Walk for Life, beginning with the first one in 2005. This year the Walk gave him its St. Gianna Molla Award, with Muntean comparing him to the prophet Isaiah, calling him a prolife hero and “one of America’s greatest orators.”
The day began with a special pro-life Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral, composed by Chris Mueller at the request of Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone.
The Walk infofaire featured prolife pregnancy and abortion healing ministries. Archdiocese of San Francisco respect life and Gabriel Project coordinator Maria Martinez-Mont said interest was high among those attending, with children fascinated by the models of unborn babies.
San Mateo Pro-Life, members of St. Francis of Assisi parish in East Palo Alto, agreed. “Kids are drawn to the model. They love picking it up. It blows them away something this precious is still in the womb,” Patricia Lopez said.
The Walk for Life weekend included the Standing Up 4 Life rally in Oakland Friday where speakers emphasized the special toll that abortion has taken on the African American community. Saints Peter and Paul Church offered all-night Eucharistic adoration. At St. Dominic Catholic Church’s Friday evening Mass and prayer vigil, Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto acknowledged the discouragement many felt when a statewide campaign to stop Proposition 1 failed but reminded those gathered that God is faithful.
“We are not here to take up our own journey but the journey with the Lord Jesus, wherever he may lead us,” Bishop Soto said in his homily. “Too easily can we be tempted to let our purpose and methods be contaminated by the discordant manners and demented methods of the day … we cannot predict in what manner the Lord Jesus will bring about his kingdom. But we are called to remain faithfully in his company to seek to make his wisdom and mercy known to others.”
Founded in 2005 by a group of San Francisco Bay Area residents, the Walk for Life West Coast’s mission is to change the perceptions of a society that thinks abortion is the answer. Walkforlifewc.com
Read about the Walk for Life Vigil and Mass.
19th annual Walk for Life West Coast
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