2022 West Coast Pro-Life Events Boast Prayerful Presence: ‘Every Life Is Sacred’
Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco and OneLife LA in Los Angeles drew large crowds.
The two largest pro-life walks on the West Coast of the United States — Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco and OneLife LA in Los Angeles — were held Saturday, Jan. 22, drawing large crowds. Held on the 49th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade, which struck down the nation’s anti-abortion laws, the events celebrated the sacredness of human life and sought a restoration of legal protections for the unborn.
The San Francisco event is led and largely attended by Catholics; San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone was honored at the event and is a regular participant. The Los Angeles event is organized by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles; Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez speaks to walkers and participates in the event.
Students from Thomas Aquinas College (TAC) and Oregon State University’s Newman Club led the San Francisco walk. Junior Sophia Ferri, who is from Nashville, Tennessee, was one of the more than 200 TAC students who participated in the event. “There was so much energy and love,” said Ferri. “We walked through the streets chanting, ‘We are the pro-life generation.’”
The weather was ideal, and other than a handful of counter-demonstrators, she said, the community members she encountered were friendly and seemed to welcome their presence. “We live in a democratic republic, and I believe a public demonstration of our beliefs is important to change minds and hearts,” Ferri said. “We want to say that life begins at conception, and no matter who you are, your life matters, and you are a beloved child of God.”
It was TAC sophomore Maggie LaFond’s first time at the Walk for Life West Coast, and she admitted that she was initially nervous about publicly demonstrating her pro-life beliefs. But she and her fellow students sang the Rosary for much of the walk, and she enjoyed her participation in support of the unborn. “We walked through the streets holding our signs and making friendly eye contact with the residents,” LaFond said. “We were telling them we are here because we love women and babies. Not only were we well received, but I’d say it was a life-changing experience.”
Stephen Morris, director of youth ministry for the northern California Diocese of Santa Rosa, helped organize and turn out student participants for the day. “It was a joyous day and a wonderful experience,” Morris said. “It was beautiful to hear the singing and see the camaraderie.”
As pandemic fears reduced the numbers of walkers to several thousand a year ago, he was pleased that numbers had substantially rebounded this year: “People are returning in hordes.”
He added that the San Francisco police provided security for the walk, and the group enjoyed a friendly exchange with them. “They were smiling and seemed to enjoy our presence. I got the feeling that they were on our side.”
One of the students attending with Morris was 18-year-old Michael Gonzalez, a senior at Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa. Gonzalez comes from a strongly pro-life family and was participating in his fourth walk. “It was great to see men and women of different ethnicities and backgrounds turn out for life,” Gonzalez said. “I’m particularly glad that so many young people like myself came out.”
Eva Muntean, a walk organizer, estimated that 20,000 turned out for the 2022 walk. While this number is down from their pre-pandemic high of 50,000, it indicated to her that the cause was still important to many and that pandemic fears were easing. She noted that the rally talks were especially powerful this year, including remarks delivered by Christi Hockel Davenport, who has Down syndrome. “Christi noted that babies with Down syndrome are often targets for abortion, but [their] lives still have value,” Muntean said. “She gave the example of her own life and all she had accomplished.”
Also notable was a presentation by Irene Zamorano-Archacki of the Silent No More campaign, according to Muntean. Zamorano-Archacki was six months pregnant and had a late-term abortion, but immediately regretted it. She related to the audience the pain she had in holding her dead baby after delivery, burying the child and telling her seven other children what had happened.
Muntean’s pastor, Father Joseph Illo, also joined the walk. He shared her enthusiasm for the speakers and remarked, “It was a fabulous event with great energy. It was prayerful and turned out many families.”
Archbishop Cordileone participated in the Knights of Columbus’ “Vigil for Life” the night before, Father Illo added, and the archbishop encouraged participants, “Keep working for the gospel of life with consistency, charity and sound reasoning. … The pro-life movement is essentially evangelization of the people from the gospel of selfishness and personal autonomy to the Gospel of a loving and all-provident God. This God is with us, and so we should not be discouraged.”
Los Angeles’ OneLife LA drew 4,000 participants this year, reported Michael Donaldson of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ Office of Life, Justice and Peace. The eighth-annual event was held in person after the 2021 event was held online only. “It was a fabulous event,” he said of Saturday’s turnout, adding that “we had great weather and tremendous energy. Our speakers were outstanding, and it was wonderful hearing people say their Rosaries and Divine Mercy Chaplets as they walked.”
Archbishop Gomez addressed participants and urged them to be vigilant in their advocacy of the protection of human life and expressed hope that an overturning of the Supreme Court’s Roe decision would soon come. The archbishop said, “OneLife LA reminds us of the beautiful truth that we are all children of God and that every life is sacred. We go forward in hope, in the spirit of OneLife LA, to create a civilization of love that celebrates and protects the beauty and dignity of all human life.”