SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) – A throng of upbeat pro-life supporters, some from as far away as Colorado, Arizona and Tennessee, swarmed the streets of downtown San Francisco January 26 carrying a wide array of messages calling for an end to abortion.
A crowd in the tens of thousands poured into Civic Center Plaza on a springlike winter day for the 15th annual Walk for Life West Coast, which marked the 46th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe. v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
The event kicked off with prayer, pro-life speakers and the amplified fetal heartbeats of seven babies whose mothers stood on the event stage holding bullhorns connected to their pregnant bellies.
“Babies saving babies,” said Walk for Life chair Eva Muntean. “The babies are here to save their peers.”
A woman allowed to see an image of her unborn baby on an ultrasound screen or to hear its heartbeat will often choose not to abort, pro-life advocates say.
Despite a heavy police presence, the two-mile march from Civic Center Plaza down Market Street to Justin Herman Plaza appeared as peaceful as organizers had hoped. At times it felt more like a celebration than a demonstration.
“This is not a day for confrontation,” Dolores Meehan, co-chair of the walk, advised as the march began. “Just say a prayer and keep it going.”
There were a handful of spontaneous hecklers, including a man who stood near the cable car turnaround on Market Street and shouted, “Go to hell” at the procession. But neither he nor a costumed group of about a dozen more organized counter protesters distracted the walkers, many of whom smiled and waved at the provocateurs.
For many, the day had begun with morning Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral celebrated by San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, where about 2,900 received holy Communion. Later in the plaza at the start of the rally, he led marchers in a prayer from the event stage.
“Give us to courage to speak the truth with love and conviction in defense of life,” he said.
Chastity Ronan, former director of San Francisco’s Alpha Pregnancy Center, took the stage to accept the Gianna Molla Award created for local “unsung heroes” of the pro-life movement.
Saint Gianna Beretta Molla (1922-1962) was an Italian pediatrician who refused both an abortion and a hysterectomy while pregnant with her fourth child despite knowing that the decision could result in her own death, which it did.
Ronan turned to the pregnancy center when she found herself pregnant, unemployed and homeless shortly after moving to San Francisco 10 years ago. Despite miscarrying her unborn child, Ronan went on to direct the growth of the center from a small service center to a medical clinic, which today serves 1,000 families a year. She resigned in 2016 after being diagnosed with cancer only months after the birth of her daughter, Catica.
“If you are experiencing tragedy in your life, look at Gianna Molla, look at me, look at Jesus,” she said. “Give him your tragedy and let him turn it into triumph.”