By Valerie Schmalz
SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) — Tens of thousands of women, men and children walked chanting and singing through San Francisco’s downtown behind a banner declaring “Abortion hurts women” Jan. 25 for the 10th annual Walk for Life West Coast, the largest pro-life gathering on the West Coast.
The event drew unusually high media attention, as participants tweeted about the walk to the second most trafficked hashtag on Twitter and the local NBC affiliate warned viewers that traffic was bad into the evening because of what it described as a massive turnout.
Always unpopular with local elected officials, this year the walk was the subject of controversy as San Francisco Supervisor David Campos introduced legislation earlier in the month attacking as false the “Abortion hurts women” slogan on the pro-life organization’s city-permitted event banners that hung from 50 light poles along the Market Street route.
His resolution, which also would regulate future banner content, was scheduled for a Board of Supervisors’ vote Jan. 28.
“When you peel away the glossy wrappers, the pro-choice movement is about death,” Walk speaker Monica Lynn Snyder of Secular Pro-Life told the noontime rally in front of City Hall, calling the pro-life movement the “big tent.”
“Everyone who recognizes the horror of abortion is welcome,” said Snyder, 28, of Sacramento.
Secular Pro-Life describes itself as a single issue organization that welcomes people of faith and those with no faith to focus on the injustice of abortion.
“We are so proud to have the largest number of people and the largest number of youth showing the pro-life face of the West Coast,” said walk co-chair Eva Muntean.
“We feel like this is so important. You have to be a voice for those who have no voice,” said Mary Eggers of Napa, who came to the event with her husband, Tim, and five children ages 6-19.
The Walk for Life began with a noontime rally at Civic Center Plaza, followed by a two-mile walk, with people 10 to 15 abreast, filling Market Street, which was closed for the demonstration. It ended at Justin Herman Plaza on San Francisco Bay. About 60 counterdemonstrators waved signs and yelled at the midpoint of the walk route. Tourists snapped photos and recorded the more than a mile long procession on their phones.
Groups came to participate from as far as Wyoming Catholic College in the Rocky Mountains, Thomas Aquinas College in Southern California, and from a high school in Phoenix. Other groups were from local Catholic schools and parishes including Marin Catholic High School and St. Bruno Parish south of the city.
Sixteen bishops — including Cardinal William J. Levada, a former San Francisco archbishop and now retired as prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and retired San Francisco Archbishop George H. Niederauer — concelebrated a Walk for Life Mass with San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone at St. Mary’s Cathedral prior to the event.
The apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, sent the Walk for Life crowd “the affectionate greetings and spiritual closeness of Pope Francis.”
“Indeed, the Holy Father is most grateful to you for your readiness to show solidarity with the most innocent and vulnerable members of the human family,” Archbishop Vigano said in a letter read at the rally by Archbishop Cordileone.
The first Walk for Life was Jan. 22, 2005, founded by a group of San Francisco residents to reach out to women hurt by abortion and to affirm the right to life from conception until natural death. Each year the walk is held on the Saturday closest to the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling, which — with the ruling in Doe v. Bolton — legalized abortion on demand in the U.S. in 1973.
The San Francisco walk has grown from 7,000 participants the first year to more than 50,000, drawing participants mostly from the West Coast.
– – –
Schmalz is assistant editor of Catholic San Francisco, newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.