Annual San Francisco walk draws tens of thousands of pro-life activists

Catholic News Service

SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) — Tens of thousands of pro-life activists massed in front of San Francisco’s City Hall and then filled the city’s main thoroughfare Jan. 21, walking about two miles down Market Street to the Embarcadero.

Banging drums, praying and chanting “We are pro-life,” the enthusiastic throngs stopped traffic for more than a mile in a peaceful walk that took about an hour. Abortion rights protesters briefly stopped the walk by pulling orange netting hung with coat hangers in front of the walk, led by a banner that said “Abortion hurts women.” Police who rode bicycles and motorcycles in advance of the walk pulled the abortion protesters out of the street.

An hour before the opening prayer at Civic Center, signs jutted above a sea of people: “Defend Life,” “Men Regret Lost Fatherhood,” “California Nurses for Ethical Standards” and “Thank God You Were Not Aborted.”

“We are here to say life is the choice, and women are hurt by abortion,” said Dolores Meehan, who co-chairs the Walk for Life West Coast, which is held on the Saturday closest to the anniversary of Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion.

Eva Muntean, who also co-chairs the walk, urged participants to sign petitions to put a parental notification of a minor’s intent to procure an abortion on the ballot and urged support for a personhood amendment.

At the rally, Dr. Vansen Wong, an obstetrician and gynecologist, told of performing abortions to pay off his medical bills, saying he ended hundreds of lives over the course of seven years working at an abortion clinic.

“Abortion is barbaric, abortion is intolerable,” Wong said, “Abortion has no place in any civilized society.”

A former Miss West Virginia, Jacquie Stalnaker, told of being forced at gunpoint to go to an abortion clinic by her boyfriend and of the toll it took from her life for 24 years. Stalnaker, who is now a regional representative for the “Silent No More” campaign, an organization of women who have had abortions and regret them, urged the crowd to go ask pro-choice acquaintances to go to the group’s website to hear the stories of women who have had abortions. “We are real people with real stories to offer you,” she said.

The day began with a Walk for Life Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral where San Francisco Archbishop George H. Niederauer told a packed cathedral, “You are the present and the future of this cause.”

In his homily, Archbishop Niederauer said, “Eternal life overcomes the culture of death.”

Marchers included a nun from New York City, seminarians from Portland, Ore., and Catholics from towns throughout northern California.

“We come to bear witness to the great gift of life,” said Sister Maria Joseph, a nun who traveled from New York with the Sisters of Life — a contemplative/apostolic community founded by John Cardinal O’Connor in 1991 — to take part in the rally and march. “Our fourth vow is to protect and enhance the sacredness of life.”

The Sisters of Life, she said, run a midtown Manhattan convent where pregnant women are invited to live during and after their pregnancy.

“It’s getting larger,” said Sister Maria Joseph of the annual Walk for Life. “It’s growing.”

A large banner made by Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Gridley was signed by members of the parish’s youth group and proclaimed “Youth Walking for Life.”

“We’re here because of the love of God,” said Marion Hughes, who arrived in one of three buses from Holy Trinity. “It’s the least we can do to spend a Saturday witnessing to the sacredness of life.”

For Hughes’ 14-year-old daughter, Claire, it was a chance for “everyone to come together for the same cause.”

Seminarians Ace Tupasi, 27, and Zani Pacanza, 30, rode in a bus Friday with 60 fellow seminarians from Mount Angel Seminary in Portland, Ore., to St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, where they spent the night and joined their fellow seminarians from St. Patrick’s for the rally and march.

“We love life,” said Tupasi. “We’re advocates for life. One of our missions is to value the sanctity of life.”

A small protest numbering 40 to 50 participants, called the West Coast Rally for Reproductive Justice, took place at Justin Herman Plaza at the end of the pro-life march route.