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SAN FRANCISCO — A throng of upbeat pro-life supporters, some from as far away as Colorado, Arizona and Tennessee, swarmed the streets of downtown San Francisco Jan. 26 carrying a wide array of messages calling for an end to abortion.
Tens of thousands of people 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 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.
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.”
The day began with Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral celebrated by San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, where about 2,900 received Communion. Later in the plaza at the start of the rally, he led marchers in a prayer from the event stage.
“Give us 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.
St. Gianna Beretta Molla (1922-62) 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.”
Other speakers included Patricia Sandoval; the Rev. Walter B. Hoye, founder of Issues4Life; Father Shenan Boquet, president of Human Life International; and Abby Johnson, a former clinic director at a Texas Planned Parenthood who is the subject of the movie “Unplanned,” scheduled for release in March.
On the parade route, marchers walked with an array of self-styled messages including, “Make Unborn Babies Great Again.”
No words were required for Katie Forbes’ sign. The Arizona State University student’s exposed belly featured a life-sized painting of her unborn child, Timothy, due in May.
“There is nothing better than an ultrasound to get the pro-life point across,” she told Catholic San Francisco, newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
Forbes said as the oldest of eight children from a Catholic family, her values were put to the test when she found herself pregnant and unmarried at 20.
“It was a lot more personal,” she said.
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