SAN FRANCISCO — Tens of thousands of pro-lifers came to San Francisco Jan. 26 for the 15th-annual Walk for Life West Coast (WalkforLifeWC.com). Broadcast on EWTN, the walk began with a lunchtime rally at the Civic Center Plaza, followed by a nearly two-mile walk down Market Street to Justin Herman Plaza.  The event is a peaceful protest of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision announced Jan. 22, 1973, striking down the nation’s anti-abortion laws.

Featured rally speakers included former Planned Parenthood employees Patricia Sandoval and Abby Johnson, Baptist preacher Walter Hoye and Father Shenan Boquet, president of Human Life International.  There were also a variety of companion events to the walk, including a “Silent No More” awareness campaign at the Civic Center Plaza that featured testimonials from people harmed by abortion and a special morning Mass celebrated by San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

Clarisse Siu leads the pro-life apostolate of Star of the Sea parish in San Francisco.  This year was her fourth walk, with 100 people participating from her parish.

“It was an awesome day, the weather was beautiful, and we didn’t see too many counterprotesters,” Siu told the Register.

She wanted to join again in the walk this year, she said, “Because abortion is one of the gravest human-rights violations ever — period — and it is appalling that it is still legal and even celebrated today. If we as fellow humans do not actively stand against the cruel dismemberment and slaughter of defenseless children in the womb, what do we honestly stand for?”

She also noted that abortion is sometimes “a forced choice made by women brutalized by the men in their lives.”

She continued, “For these men, abortion provides an easy way to hide the consequences of their bad behavior and to control women. Our society today believes abortion is an unambiguous good for women, but the sad reality is that it is not.”

Kathy Folan of St. Dominic’s parish in San Francisco also participated.  She serves on the walk’s planning committee and regularly attends.  The night before the walk she participated in a prayer vigil at her parish, which included a pro-life testimony from a couple who adopted seven children.  The previous year, she delivered the testimony, telling the story of how her first child, now age 27 and enjoying a successful career in Florida, was conceived in rape.  She is now married and has three additional children with her husband.

She said, “My family and I are pleased to turn out and stand up for the rights of the unborn, as well as to teach our own children the importance of protecting human life.”

“It is important for everyone to stand for life and lovingly tell why each life is important and valuable,” she continued. “As Catholics, it is something we have to do.”

Joseph Daly, a senior at Thomas Aquinas College (TAC) in Santa Paula, California, helped organize a group of 230 TAC students who made the six-hour drive for the San Francisco event in four buses and a handful of cars. Half the student body came to demonstrate. “Students at TAC love life and want to bear witness to a culture of life,” he said.

The TAC students were hosted by Sts. Peter and Paul parish, sleeping two nights on the floor of the parish gym.

Daly saw few counterprotesters along the route this year, with the exception of one woman who began chanting “my body, my choice” in front of the students.  The students responded by singing Amazing Grace; she adjusted her chant to sing “my body my choice” to the tune of Amazing Grace

Greg Jackson is a freshman at TAC who participated in his first walk. He is originally from Manassas, Virginia, and had regularly participated in the March for Life in Washington, D.C. “It was awesome, extremely vibrant, energetic and peaceful,” he said of the San Francisco event.

He noted that the weather was warmer than what was typical for the march in Washington, and since the walk had fewer numbers, it was easier to mill about the crowd and get to know people. He enjoyed the rally and was particularly moved by Abby Johnson’s testimony.  Johnson announced to the participants that she was pregnant and joined other women onstage in putting microphones up to their wombs so those gathered could hear the unborn children’s beating hearts.

As Jackson said, “I love listening to her.  She made the journey from directing an abortion mill to finding her way into the pro-life movement.”

The TAC students led the walk along with 100 students from Wyoming Catholic College.  Mary Terlisner, a Wyoming Catholic graduate now employed by the college, made the trip from her home in Lander to participate in her fourth walk. 

“It is important to be a prayerful witness for those affected by the grave injustices against life in our modern world,” Terlisner told the Register.

Evelyn Grimm, a Wyoming Catholic junior, took part in her third walk.  As she said, “We had a great time, walking with friends, singing hymns.  It was a peaceful and prayerful experience.”

Participating with her fellow college students is an important witness in society, she said, “because it demonstrates that the next generation respects life, from the moment of conception to natural death.”

Jim Graves writes from Newport Beach, California.