While many major pro-life marches across the country typically held in January are being cancelled, the Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco, according to organizer Eva Muntean, appears to be going ahead. The Walk, in its 17th year, protests the January 22, 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision, which struck down the nation’s anti-abortion laws. Previous years have drawn up to 50,000 walkers, who participate in a downtown rally and 1.8-mile walk up the City’s famous Market Street.
This year the walk is scheduled to take place, while the rally has largely been eliminated due to San Francisco’s pandemic-related regulations.
The event begins at noon on Saturday, January 23rd, at San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza. Ignatius Press founder and editor Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., who is walk chaplain, along with Reverend Clenard Childress of BlackGenocide.org will address the crowd, followed by the walk at 12:30 p.m. Eliminated this year will be such elements pro-life testimonials, information booths, the large balloon arch, and mariachi band.
There will be a police presence along the route to ensure the safety of participants. EWTN will broadcast the Walk.
A companion event will be held the day before, on Friday, January 22nd, in nearby Oakland. Pro-life walkers will gather at Oakland City Hall for a Stand Up 4Life Rally and Walk at Oakland City Hall. Childress will deliver a keynote address for the Oakland event as well.
Other events planned for Friday, January 22nd include a Mass for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children, which will be celebrated by San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone at St. Mary’s Cathedral at noon; a 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. webinar featuring the archbishop and other pro-life leaders; a 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. Vigil for Life with the Dominican Friars; and private prayer at Ss. Peter and Paul Church for the Sanctity of Life from 7 to 9 p.m. See the Walk website for additional even details.
The Walk for Life West Coast will proceed against a backdrop of cancelled in-person pro-life walks across the country, the most significant being the March for Life in Washington, D.C. Last January, the Walk reached an apex when President Donald Trump addressed a crowd of more than 100,000, assuring his support for the movement. On January 15, 2021, however, the March for Life announced it was cancelling the in-person walk, explaining, “In light of the fact that we are in the midst of a pandemic which may be peaking, and in view of the heightened pressures that law enforcement officers and others are currently facing in and around the Capitol, this year’s March for Life will look different,” meaning that marchers are being asked to stay home and participate virtually.
Other major pro-life marches that have been cancelled include the Archdiocese of Denver’s Celebrate Life Rally and March. In January 2020, 8,000 marched by downtown Denver’s capitol building; participants also listened to speakers and pro-life testimonies. The event has been cancelled due to Denver’s pandemic-related limits on outdoor gatherings, said organizer Lynn Grandon. Individual parishes will instead celebrate Masses, and have Holy Hours and Eucharistic processions, she said.
Grandon worried about the pro-abortion tack the new Biden Administration would take, remarking, “These may be tough times for Christians, but we must trust in God for the grace to endure.”
Colorado has a dire need for a strong pro-life movement, she continued, as it has a long history of being an abortion-friendly state. In 1967, it was the first U.S. state to liberalize its abortion laws; more recently, in November, Colorado voters defeated by 59 to 41% Proposition 115, which would have ended late-term abortions.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ in-person OneLife LA walk through the streets of downtown Los Angeles, which drew 25,000 last January, has also been a casualty of 2021. It has also been replaced by a virtual event, said organizer Kathleen Domingo. “Our first priority,” she explained, “is to keep our people as safe and healthy as we can.”
Many long-time smaller pro-life marches, some dating to 1973, have also been cancelled. These include Maine’s Hands Around the Capitol rally in Augusta, the State of Maine’s capital city. The event had been held for the 47 previous years. It is sponsored by Maine Right to Life, with Diocese of Portland, Maine Bishop Robert Deeley celebrating Mass and participating. The diocese announced that the event had been cancelled due to “safety concerns,” and asked those with further questions to contact Maine Right to Life.
Despite the state’s pro-life efforts, Maine’s legislature has advanced measures in recent years to allow the use of taxpayer dollars for abortions and has legalized physician-assisted suicide.
Muntean encouraged those who wanted to participate in the 2021 Walk for Life West Coast to regularly check back at the walk’s webpage for last minute updates, which could include a last-minute cancellation “due to potential changes from the City of San Francisco, or for general public safety.” But at the present, the walk will go ahead, because with an incoming presidential administration hostile to the pro-life cause, “We will need to work harder to keep the pro-life message front and center.”
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