California Catholic Daily exclusive.
Neither the threat of rain nor the proximity of a massive anti-Trump ‘Women’s March” deterred tens of thousands of pro-lifers from attending San Francisco’s 13th Annual Walk for Life West Coast on Saturday, January 21.
The rain halted when the organizers began setting up early in the morning, and began coming down heavily almost as soon as the Walk ended in the late afternoon.
This year’s Walk was complicated by the Women’s March, which began, like the Walk, in Civic Center Plaza. The Women’s March rally began at 3PM, just after the last Walk for Lifers left the plaza. It then proceeded along the same route as the Walk, down Market Street to San Francisco’s Ferry Building.
Walk co-Chair and co-founder Eva Muntean told CalCatholic that “while it caused us a lot of additional work during preparation, what with coordinating with the police and the organizers of the other event to prevent conflicts, I now actually think it was providential. Because the Women’s March had tens of thousands of people walking down Market Street right under our ‘Abortion Hurts Women’ banners. Not all of them were pro-abortion fanatics, and even they can be reached. We’re positive, we know from past experience, that our message of life and love, hope and healing will have reached some of those women. And even if it is just one, what is one life, one soul worth? Everything!”
In her welcome, Walk co-chair and co-founder Dolores Meehan told the throngs, “They said you weren’t coming because of the weather…are they high? You’re pro-lifers! You’re the Navy Seals of the Almighty!”
The rally began with an invocation by Bishop Steven Lopes, Bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. The Personal Ordinariate, established under Pope Benedict XVI, equivalent to a diocese, is for people ”… nurtured in the Anglican tradition who wish to become Catholic.”
Speakers included pro-life activist, missionary, and mother of five (including football legend Tim), Pam Tebow. She shared the story of she and her husband’s missionary activities, and related the now-famous story of how she was advised to abort “Timmy” for health reasons.
Mrs. Tebow was followed by author, activist, abortion survivor and mother of two Melissa Ohden. Mrs. Ohden told the story of how her mother tried to abort her, but that the abortion was what is called “unsuccessful.” She pointed out strongly how odd the concept of “unsuccessful” is in this context. Mrs. Ohden described her journey of coming to a place of love, hope, and forgiveness for those who had hurt her. She writes “The very hospital where her life was supposed to end in the abortion, a place that signified death and suffering to her, is transformed thirty years later into a place that holds the most beautiful memories of her life, when she gives birth to her first daughter there, herself.”
Mrs. Ohden was followed by Reggie Littlejohn, founder and president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers. Mrs. Littlejohn is one of the world’s top experts on China’s forced abortion policy, and its treatment of women. She told the rally that China has 23 million abortions annually, as well as the world’s highest rate of suicide for women—two statistics that she considers definitely related. As she closed her talk she was joined by her husband Robert and by Anni and Ruli Zhang, daughters of imprisoned Chinese dissident and nuclear physicist Zhang Lin. Reggie and Robert have been raising the two girls in their home.
The rally closed with Baptist Reverend Clenard Childress, director of blackgenocide.org which seeks to stem the horrific rate of abortion in the African-American community. The Rev. Childress was joined on stage by his friend the pro-life hero Rev. Walter Hoye of Oakland, whose Stand Up 4 Life rally had to be cancelled because Oakland police were unable to guarantee participants safety. Reverend Childress, who has been with the Walk for Life West Coast since its inception, closed the rally with a magnificent speech. He closed with the words “The shedding of innocent blood pollutes the land! Our land needs healing RIGHT NOW!…We shall overcome…Today! Today…Today…Today…Now we overcome today! Right now is your time!”
The SFPD was out in full force to protect the Walk for Lifers. There seemed to be fewer counter-protestors than in recent years. A few walked through the rally chanting or carrying signs but were mostly ignored. There was a group of 50-60 at the corner of Powell and Market Dolores Meehan reported seeing a lady of about 60, face suffused with hatred, grabbing a sign away from a little boy. The boy’s father said “Not cool, lady. Not cool at all.” Catherine Harmon, writing in Catholic World Report saw a similar incident, and similar response “I was chatting with a group of college students at the end of the route near the Ferry Building, when an older woman in a pink hat, with hair to match, angrily knocked a “Pro-Life Generation” sign out of the backpack of one of the girls. This was a lively group of young people, and you might have expected them to say something to the woman, but they just laughed a little and shrugged, and picked the sign up from the ground.” But such incidents were few and far between. The atmosphere of the event was one of youthful joy and hope.