Parish groups from throughout the East Bay took part in the annual Walk for Life West Coast.
All: josÉ luis aguirre/The Catholic Voice
SAN FRANCISCO — 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.
His resolution, which also would regulate future banner content, was scheduled for a Board of Supervisors' vote Jan. 28.
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.
"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.
Diocesan parishes support Walk for Life
"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.
Among those young leaders was Feliciano Castaneda, 18, from St. Anthony Parish in Oakley. "We like to stand up for life," he said. "A mother always says, 'My baby just kicked.' She doesn't say, 'My fetus just kicked.'"
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 and parish in Phoenix.
The youth group from St. Joan of Arc Parish and students from St. Mary's High School in Phoenix wore bright yellow T-shirts with the slogan, "Yea baby," which they called out from time to time before the rally.
"It's a friendly way to enter the conversation," said Zack Hohenberg, youth minister at the Phoenix parish.
Other groups were from local Catholic schools and parishes. On buses, BART and carpools, the faithful from the Diocese of Oakland made their way to the walk.
"We're here in a show of support of pro-life," said Frank Cabrera, Grand Knight of St. Clement Parish in Hayward, as he carried a banner from the Civic Center BART station to the rally site.
Jennifer San Juan, 26, was among the young adults from the parish. "We walk for those who have no voice," she said.
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, and Oakland Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ — concelebrated a Walk for Life Mass with San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone at St. Mary's Cathedral prior to the event.
After the Mass, several seminarians from the Diocese of Oakland joined the crowd in Civic Center Plaza. They were there, in the words of Deacon Alberto Perez, "to be witnesses to life."
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.
Tammy Brown, a parishioner at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Brentwood, was accompanied by four of her five children, who range in age from 7 to almost 16.
"I am against abortion 100 percent," she said. "It's killing people."
The day had special importance for Brown and her family. The theme at the March for Life in Washington had emphasized adoption.
Each of her children was adopted as a newborn, she said. "They're wonderful," she said.
"I want to teach my kids so they can continue the fight," she said.
As the march turned on to Market Street, two heart-shaped helium balloons floated over the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the banner carried by Fremont parishioners.
Abortion a civil rights issue,
speakers tell Oakland crowd
"This is not your typical pro-life message," Pastor Bruce Rivers told the more than 150 people gathered for the Issues4Life Rally and Walk in Oakland at noon Jan. 24. "I am not your typical pro-life messenger."
Pastor Rivers, who leads the Greater Exodus Baptist Church's Western Mission in Los Banos, had already warned the crowd that he was "not a quiet guy," when he began to tell the story of a young woman in Philadelphia whose husband was serving overseas in the Army in 1955.
"She hooked up with another guy," he said, "and, lo and behold, she was with child. Family and friends told her to visit a Margaret Sanger-style clinic" before her husband came home.
Instead, she went to stay with family in South Carolina, and gave birth to a son.
"Four months and 10 days later, she went back to Philly and left that little boy with her cousin," he said.
"I am that little boy," he said. He had been told the story just two months before his birth mother's death a little more than a year ago.
Pastor Rivers played football in college, and during that time, his hometown girlfriend had two abortions. Once was without his knowledge; the second was without his consent. "I pleaded, I cried and I lost the discussion," he said.
Years later, he said, he realized, "I was fatherhood aborted."
But, he told the audience, "Today is about healing."
Addressing the men in the crowd who might have been involved in abortion, he said, "Right now, you know you are a fugitive. You might have confessed your drug addiction. You might have confessed other problems in your life. But you never went and confessed what you did to that child God gave you."
Two men raised their hands. "Public confession is a wonderful thing," he said, as he invited them to stand with him in front of the crowd. "In the name of Jesus, I say to you, be free my brother. Stand strong and join this movement of men, post-abortive. Learn how to name your baby and understand you will see them again."
The crowd responded enthusiastically.
The second speaker, Pastor Walter Moss of the Foursquare Church in Canton, Ohio, said he is the third of four children of a single mother. As a young man on a football scholarship, he heard the call to ministry.
He is co-founder of the Pregnancy Support Center in Canton, which is the second largest in the United States.
In addition, he said he wrote the book, "Why I'm a Black Pro-Life Pastor," as a response to the prevalence of abortion in the African American community.
"Looking at statistics of African American women who were having abortions," he said, "I was blown away. There's something wrong with this picture."
"The only race where abortion went up was in the African American community," he said. "We're killing ourselves."
He called for speaking up about adoption. "We've got to help these young ladies, and young men, make the right decision."
Rev. Clenard Childress, pastor of the New Calvary Baptist Church in Montclair, New Jersey, and founder of the BlackGenocide.Org, framed the pro-life movement as a civil rights issue.
"It is intellectually dishonest to claim a right for yourself and in so doing take away the right of someone else," said Rev. Childress. "This is the premier civil rights issue of our time."
He noted the statistics: 1,786 African American babies aborted daily. 52 percent of all African American pregnancies end in abortion. Twelve percent of the population is responsible for 32 percent of the abortions in this country, he said.
"That's genocide," said Rev. Childress.
As the rally ended, organizer Pastor Walter Hoye invited all those in attendance to gather around for a group photo. Then they picked up their signs, put children in their strollers and headed out for a peaceful march through the streets of Oakland.
Minerva Calderon of Pittsburg was ready to walk with six of her eight children. They carried homemade signs.
"I want to support the cause," she said. "I want them to witness what they should do with their lives. I want to be an example so they can lead when they grow up.
"You can't just think mentally that abortion's wrong. You have to do something about it."
Pro-life speakers share national
efforts with East Bay audience
Exhorted by Father Frank Pavone that the pro-life movement proceeds from the point of victory, more than 150 people filled the parish hall at St. Margaret Mary Church in Oakland to hear from activists on the movement's frontlines.
The annual Conversations4Life dinner featured a half-dozen nationally recognizable speakers, who shared their part of the struggle with the guests at the Jan. 24 dinner that benefited the Issues4Life Foundation and the Gabriel Project of the parish.
Cecilia Chavez, a parishioner at Holy Innocents Parish in Long Beach, received the annual Issues4Life Champions for Life award. The parish pro-life apostolate, founded in 2008, is credited with saving the lives of more than 700 babies. "She is directly responsible for 300 of those babies," said Rev. Walter Hoye, Issues4Life founder, who presented the award.
Chavez said the apostolate is inspired by Mother Teresa's exhortation that everyone "can do small things with great love."
Their approach to the women at the two abortion clinics near their parish — "they're virtually in our backyard" — is rooted in love.
"We don't scream at them, we don't judge them. We want to be approachable," she said. They do offer help. They offer literature and go over it with the women.
"We make that baby real to her," she said. "We let her know that it's a part of her, too. A lot of times they are forced in there by family members, boyfriends. Sometimes it's fear. "
She hands out cards with her phone number, and is happy to hear from the women. She thanked her son for carrying diapers up flights of stairs, and told of being invited to the hospital for the births.
Abby Johnson, the former Texas Planned Parenthood worker who documented her crossover to the other side in the book "Unplanned," told about her new ministry. And Then There Were None, she said, reaches out to abortion clinic workers to leave their work.
Critics have told her that her approach will only lead to a revolving door at clinics. Her reply: "That person that leaves is going to gain eternal life, and that is priceless."
She told the audience that while they might see a woman entering an abortion clinic for just a few seconds, they will see workers every time they stand in front of the clinic. She offered on how to forge a relationship with clinic workers.
Janice Morana works with Pavone at Priests for Life and is co-founder of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign. "We should demand a recall of the failed product, abortion. If any product did to women what abortion does, it would be off the shelves," she said, explaining the title of her book, "Recall Abortion."
Also, she said, "Women who have an abortion, even if they've gone through healing, always recall their abortion."
The campaign was founded near the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, when she and Georgette Forney said it was time to hear from the women.
"The real war on women is abortion," she said.
Jeff White, founder of Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, spoke of the importance of bringing young people. His Riverside organization conducts a summer boot camp to train high school and college students to find their voice to defend life.
"Anyone born after 1973 is a survivor," he said.
White, a longtime pro-life advocate, said, "I began to recruit young people. We're in a war. If we were going to invade a country, we wouldn't send a bunch of people my age."
"To fight a war you need enthusiasm," he said. "You share with them the truth about abortion. They say, 'We have to stop that.'"
Other speakers included Rev. Clenard Childress, Rev. Walter Moss and Pastor Bruce Rivers, who had addressed the Issues4Life rally at noon in downtown Oakland.
Bishop Barber celebrates Masses in Washington
In preparation for the March for Life in Washington, D.C., Oakland's Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, was the chief celebrant and homilist at the closing Mass in the Dahlgren Chapel of the Sacred Hart for Georgetown University's 15th Cardinal O'Connor Conference on Life on Jan. 20, above and below. Bishop Barber also was the principal celebrant for students of Jesuit High Schools from around the country at St. Aloysius Church at Gonzaga College High School in Washington D.C. Afterward, nearly 800 Jesuit high school and college students trekked out into the snow to join the larger March for Life event on the National Mall on Jan. 22.
FRANK ANTHONY MILLER/COURTESY PHOTOs
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