Catholic San Francisco


(Photo by Jose Luis Aguirre/Catholic San Francisco)

Tens of thousands of people rallied at Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco Jan. 21 for the 8th annual Walk for Life West Coast.

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Tens of thousands of peaceful pro-life activists mass in San Francisco
January 21st, 2012
By Valerie Schmalz and Dana Perrigan

SAN FRANCISCO – 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. Police who rode bicycles and motorcycles in advance of the walk pulled the abortion protesters out of the street before the walk resumed, led by a group of young women carrying the walk’s signature banner, “Abortion hurts women.”

In Washington, D.C., the March for Life drew hundreds of thousands to walk along the Capitol Mall, ending with marchers visiting their representatives’ offices on Capitol Hill. New York Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan said that after nearly 40 years of legalized abortion, “we might be tempted to give up.”

But “not us,” said Cardinal-designate Dolan, president of the U.S. bishops, at the closing Mass of an all-night National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Jan.23. “Not for thousands who have stayed up all night here in prayer. Not for hundreds of thousands who will march today with the word we have received ringing in their ears.”

An hour before the opening prayer at Civic Center in San Francisco, 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 the 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, an initiative campaign supported by the California bishops, and also urged support for a personhood amendment.

“For evil to win all it takes is for good people to do nothing. So let’s get together and sign those petitions,” Muntean said.

At the rally, Dr. Vansen Wong, an obstetrician and gynecologist, told of performing abortions to pay off his medical school 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 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 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 Cardinal John 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.


From January 27, 2011 issue of Catholic San Francisco.


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