“Life brings me back,” said Sandra Herbert, a mother of four from Mt. Carmel, Calif., one of more than 20,000 people gathered at Justin Herman Plaza at the Embarcadero Jan. 20 for the third annual Walk for Life in San Francisco.
The pro-life walkers traveled from all across California and even neighboring states so they could gather in the streets of San Francisco and bear witness that all human life has value. This year more than 40 registered buses transported participants from up and down the West Coast.
The Walk for Life was created from a need to protect the dignity and sanctity of marriage and family life, supporters explained --- and, said Walk for Life board member Janet Parcher, from the need to proclaim the truth in San Francisco. Similar in nature to the annual event held in Washington, D.C., the West Coast event is publicized by contacting youth groups and parishes, advertising with EWTN, and through word of mouth.
According to Parcher, the ultimate goal of the walk is to help women realize there are other alternatives than abortion, and that there are organizations and groups of people across the country that want to help them throughout all stages of a pregnancy.
Participants ranged in age from newborn to 90, said Delores Meehan, Walk for Life co-founder, and included both individuals and parish groups, priests and religious.
They gathered together not only to show respect and honor for the millions of aborted babies since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision of Jan. 22, 1973, but also to proclaim that healing and forgiveness are available for those men and women who made the decision to abort their baby.
Among the featured speakers was Vera Faith Lord who shared her testimony of how her decision to have an abortion affected her life. Lord emphasized that when a family member dies, it is important to mourn their death. Women who have an abortion do not have the chance to mourn. They are told that this is a simple procedure, everything will be fine, and that their lives will not change.
“The baby is not the only one who dies” through abortion, Lord explained. “Parts of the mother die, too.” Naming her baby Gabriel helped Lord realize what she had done. Through finally mourning her son’s death and asking his forgiveness, she could begin asking God to forgive her.
Talitha Phillips also gave her testimony on behalf of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign. During her abortion, Phillips said, “I could hear everything. I could feel everything.” A mask covered her face throughout the entire procedure. Phillips was screaming and crying, and “no one noticed.”
Finding an abortion recovery group, Phillips was able to surround herself with women who experienced similar situations. All of these women, she said, have found healing from their wounds by asking those whom they have hurt to forgive them.
In an interview with the Tidings, Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, commented on the importance of walks and marches for life across the country. “The pro-life effort is not just a matter of Washington and what happens in government. It is about what happens in all cities across the country where abortions occur. So for these walks and marches to be springing up in different cities symbolizes that people are reaching out to those in their own community.”
Father Pavone noted the increased participation of young people and called it inspiring to see their involvement and enthusiasm in the pro-life movement.
Among those in the crowd were nearly 200 students from Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, representing more than half of its student body. Students Mike Lawless and Moira Heffernan said the school has been involved with this walk every year. Starting in October they advertise the event with flyers all over campus.
This increase of youthful participation offers hope for the future. When Delores Meehan addressed the rally, she proposed this challenge for the youth: “Let’s make abortion extinct!”
Sandra Herbert enthusiastically agreed. “Wouldn’t that be great? We’d have a march to celebrate life!”