San Francisco March Doubles

SAN FRANCISCO — The turnout for the second annual Walk for Life West Coast on Saturday, Jan. 21, was double last year’s, despite a day that dawned rainy and cold.

Fifteen thousand pro-life supporters walked along San Francisco’s waterfront for more than a mile, behind a banner that proclaimed “Abortion Hurts Women.”

They were protected by a police motorcade and tactical squads that foiled protestors’ plans to disrupt the event.

“We’re obviously building momentum,” said organizer Dolores Meehan, in reference to the police crowd count, double last year’s 7,500 participants. “It’s not just an event, it’s a movement.”

“We’ve got new energy on our side,” speaker Star Parker, founder of an urban renewal coalition based in Orange County, Calif. “We will be silent no more!”

Elsewhere in California, the Los Angeles March for Life/Life Chain drew large Hispanic support and endorsement from Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, while a pro-life lobby day in the state capital of Sacramento was touted statewide.

The Walk for Life West Coast lineup of speakers and walkers reflected a cross-section of pro-life activism, from area Catholic bishops to Parker, a black, Republican-leaning political activist and newspaper columnist, and Democrats for Life of America founder Carol Crossed.

A group of homosexuals who support the right to life for the unborn walked quietly with the group, drawing thumbs up from their fellow walkers and derisive remarks from the protestors.

Crossed drew loud cheers when she addressed the rally that preceded the Walk, “Who better than Democrats for Life to speak to this blue state of California?

“The reporters have asked me ‘Are you people real Democrats?’” said Crossed, an American Indian. “What was my answer? We are the only real Democrats! “We don’t pick and choose, and we don’t shun the vulnerable in our mission, the vulnerable unborn. If we aren’t Democrats, than neither are the 47% of us who disagree with our party’s no restrictions on abortion in the 2004 platform.”

Walk Is Outreach

Last year’s event was marred by about 1,000 angry counter demonstrators and Meehan’s 10-year-old nephew was among those hit by eggs thrown from an overpass and the sidelines. This year, the San Francisco police tripled their protection and detailed a string of motorcycle police to create a barrier between the counter protestors and the pro-life walkers.

Mayor Gavin Newsom and most members of the board of supervisors ignored the event — in contrast to the inaugural 2005 Walk, which drew denunciations from Newsom and the board. Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice California, also in contrast to last year, did not organize protests.

This year’s counter demonstrators numbered just a couple of hundred and the walk was very peaceful, although Meehan said the police tactical team had foiled a plot to hurl tomato juice filled balloons at the Walk for Life participants and stopped a nascent attempt to block the route.

The walk has adopted Feminists for Life’s signature slogan “Women Deserve Better than Abortion,” and all the speakers urged support for pregnant and parenting women. The 2 1/2-mile trek is an outreach to women who have had abortions and women in crisis pregnancies or who need help parenting.

“We need to address the causes that drive women to abortion,” said Serrin Foster, president of Feminists for Life of America. “We have to reach out to women who think, ‘Without housing, daycare and maternity coverage, it doesn’t feel like I have much of a choice,’”

Rev. Clenard Childress, a black Baptist minister and founder of New Jersey-based, said legal abortion “is the most unjust law in the history of mankind.”

Childress said that abortion is decimating the black community, and he cited Martin Luther King Jr. in his speech. “An injustice to anyone anywhere is an injustice to everyone everywhere,” Childress said, noting King on the last Sunday before he died said, ‘You must eradicate the last vestiges of human injustice’.

Exhorting the walkers in the last speech of the rally, he said, “You are not here because you want to be safe. You are not here because you want to be popular. You are here because your conscience tells you to be here. Every step you take is a step of conscience. Every step you take is a step against evil.”   

Speaker Alfredo Abarca, a prominent member of the San Francisco Hispanic community, urged walkers to work to pass a parental notification measure.

Parker, who had several abortions and was a single mother on welfare while a very young woman, told the crowd that there is a chance abortion will be eradicated in this generation. Parker, a columnist for Scripps Howard News Service, is heartened by Judge Samuel Alito’s expected confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. She said that California’s parental notification measure, which narrowly failed last fall, has a good chance of passing in 2006.

“We have to be personal witnesses in our personal lives” by helping pregnant women, Parker said. “We’ve got to be there to answer the phone. We’ve got to be ready and open up our homes and say, ‘You don’t want it — I do.’”

Valerie Schmalz writes

 from San Francisco.