The Walk for Life West Coast, the nation’s second largest pro-life event, will present its 19th-annual rally and walk through the streets of downtown San Francisco on Saturday, January 21, 2023.
The walk is held annually on or around the anniversary of the announcement of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe decision striking down the nation’s anti-abortion laws, which was overturned in 2022 by the Court’s Dobbs ruling.
The event begins at 10:45 a.m. in the City’s Civic Center Plaza with a “Silent No More” awareness campaign led by Georgette Forney and Frank Pavone of Priests for Life. It presents the testimony of those who have been involved in an abortion in the past, sharing the stories of the adverse consequences the abortion has had in their lives. There will also be an Info Faire in the Plaza 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. featuring booths and vendors staffed by those in different aspects of the pro-life movement.
The main event kicks off with a rally in the Plaza at 12:30 p.m., with the walk beginning at 1:30 p.m.
The walk is a 1.8-mile route from the Civic Center Plaza down the City’s famous Market Street and ending at the Embarcadero Plaza. Past walks have drawn 50,000 or more participants in pre-pandemic years, and while there may be some pro-abortion protestors along the route, there is a heavy police presence to keep the peace. (Check the website for information about parking, accommodations and public transportation.)
There are also a variety of companion events. Ss. Peter and Paul Church will host an all-night Adoration for Life from 8 p.m. Friday, January 20, to 7 a.m. Saturday, January 21. St. Dominic Church will hold a Walk for Life prayer vigil hosted by the Dominican friars who staff the parish. It begins with vespers on Friday, January 20, 5 p.m., followed by a Mass celebrated by Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto at 5:30 p.m., which will be followed by a Holy Hour and confessions. In Oakland, there will be a Standing Up 4 Life Walk on Friday, January 20.
San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone will celebrate a Walk for Life Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral Saturday, January 21, at 9:30 a.m. Bishop Michael Barber will celebrate Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland at 9 a.m. the same morning, then join participants at the walk. Star of the Sea Parish will present a Knights of Columbus BBQ after the walk, followed by all-night Eucharistic adoration beginning at 5 p.m. (Here is more information about the schedule.)
Speakers for the rally include Shawn Carney of 40 Days for Life, Reverend Clenard Childress, a Protestant minister who especially witnesses to the black community about the evil of abortion, Rebecca Kiessling of Save the 1, and Angela Minter of Sisters for Life.
Shawn Carney has been a participant in the Walk for Life West Coast since 2008. He describes it as his favorite annual pro-life event and “a very Catholic march in the heart of San Francisco, traditionally one of the greatest Catholic cities in the country that has now gone down the tubes morally.”
He said, “It is great to go and meet other pro-life people who are peaceful and joyful. You also see Catholic bishops, priests and nuns everywhere. It is a positive, life-affirming Catholic event in one of the abortion capitals of the country.”
This will be Carney’s second time speaking to the gathering. He plans to celebrate the overturning of Roe in 2022 as “one of the greatest days in American history, one on which we recognize the dignity and biological reality of our [unborn] citizens.”
California’s voters enshrined a “right” to abortion in the state constitution by a 2-1 margin in the 2022 election in November, he conceded, but he still believes many hearts and minds are being changed on abortion. He said, “The reality is that we’re seeing abortion facilities close in major cities in the U.S. and Europe.”
He believes the passage of pro-abortion measures in states like California was a reaction to Dobb. “Some states are sprinting to be on the wrong side of history. It was the same with the outlawing of slavery in the U.S. in the 1860s; many of the states in the South resisted.”
Like some pro-lifers, he believes the time has come for major pro-life events to be held not on January 22, the anniversary date of Roe, but June 24, the date the Dobbs decision was announced. He explained, “I don’t mind going this year [on or around January 22] to do a victory lap, but I have no interest in keeping Roe on life support by recalling that one horrible day in 1973. The Supreme Court has done its job by correcting its error. I would love to see us move away from recalling that shameful anniversary to one we can truly celebrate, June 24.”
He added, “It doesn’t hurt that [June 24th] was the day we celebrated the Feast of the Sacred Heart.”
Carney will also touch on the work of 40 Days for Life, which fasts and prays for the closure of abortion facilities. He said, “We’ve enjoyed extreme growth since June, are seeing a mass exodus of those who work in abortion facilities leave their jobs and abortion facilities closing.”
Carney will also be giving away a “4040” scholarship of $4040 to a college student who has excelled in supporting the pro-life movement.
Rebecca Kiessling has been a pro-life speaker since 1995, and is an attorney and mother of five (two adopted). When sharing her story, she relates that she was conceived in rape in 1968, and that her birth mother had had two abortions and would have aborted her as well had it not been illegal. It is the first time she has participated in the Walk for Life West Coast.
Many who support pro-life legislation support exceptions in the cases of rape or incest (which often involves rape), exceptions which she finds offensive. She explained, “I do not deserve the death penalty for the crime of my biological father. Why should I die because of his crime?”
In her nearly three decades of pro-life advocacy she has been able to “change the hearts of the most radical pro-abortion activists,” she related. She recalled one debate in which her pro-abortion opponent spoke to her privately afterwards. The woman related that she had been raped years before and began to cry. Kiessling remembered, “She said I was a good person, and that I deserved to live. She said she had changed her views on abortion, although she’d lose many friends over the decision.”
Kiessling shares her message at schools, pro-life events, rallies, church gatherings and in political venues. She believes the pro-life movement should continue to observe January 22 “as a memorial day like the December 7th Pearl Harbor attack, remembering all those who have been killed.”
She added, “I’m looking forward to speaking, sharing my message that every life has value regardless of the circumstances in which it was conceived, and no one deserves to be discriminated against.”
Angela Minter of Sisters for Life will be participating in the San Francisco walk for the first time. She had two abortions as a teenager, regretted her decision, and founded her pro-life organization. It engages in such activities as sidewalk counseling in front of abortion clinics and mentoring young women, encouraging them to support life. She began the organization in Kentucky, and it is expanding to other parts of the U.S. A special focus has been witnessing in churches with black congregations.
She is looking forward to addressing the walk, she said, because “I want to be a voice and a part of anything I can do to support people doing work for the Kingdom and Sanctity of Life.”
She plans to share her personal testimony of having two abortions, and after hearing the pro-life message through the Kentucky Right-to-Life coming to regret her decision. She is Christian and sought forgiveness from God and then felt called to start Sisters for Life. The group has saved many babies from abortion, she said, and has done much to educate the black community about the “genocide” in their communities abortion has brought. She said, “Planned Parenthood targets our communities; 79% of their clinics are in minority neighborhoods.”
Walk participants are encouraged to come as individuals or families, or as part of church or parish groups. There is no cost to walk, but participants are encouraged to visit the website and register so that they may receive periodic updates.
Questions about participation may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or answered by calling (415) 658-1793.
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