Tens of thousands of people are expected to join the seventh annual Walk for Life West Coast on Jan. 22, gathering at an 11 a.m. rally at Justin Herman Plaza in downtown San Francisco and then walking more than two miles to Marina Green.
“The Walk for Life is now a tradition in San Francisco,” said San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer, who will attend along with nine other California bishops, including Auxiliary Bishop William Justice, Auxiliary Bishop Robert McElroy and retired Bishop Ignatius Wang of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
“It has become an increasingly important event here in a very brief few years,” Archbishop Niederauer said. “I believe that the walk is inspired by the Holy Spirit who accomplishes it through women and men who listen to his call.”
The walk was founded in 2005 by a small group of San Francisco and Bay Area residents with about 7,000 joining the first grassroots event. In 2010, more than 35,000 walked along the city’s Embarcadero.
“Abortion hurts not just babies, but all women and men, because violence against any is violence against all of us,” said Dolores Meehan, co-founder of the Walk for Life West Coast and a fourth-generation San Franciscan. “As our mission statement says, our goal is to shed light on all issues of life, but particularly to change hearts hurt by the violence of abortion.”
This year the walk falls on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion.
Abby Johnson, former manager of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas, will speak about her conversion to pro-life advocacy through her experience assisting with an abortion performed using ultrasound in 2009. Johnson also will talk about her relationship with 40 Days for Life, a national prayer ministry that had conducted six 40 Days vigils outside the clinic where she worked.
Other speakers will include Mary Poirer, who had an abortion; Denise and Brian Walker, founders of Everlasting Ministries; and Kathleen Eaton, founder of Birth Choice Health Clinics.
The day will begin with 8 a.m. Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral, celebrated by Archbishop Niederauer and concelebrated by brother bishops, said Vicki Evans, Respect Life coordinator for the archdiocese. Joining to concelebrate will be Priests for Life founder Father Frank Pavone; Ignatius Press founder Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio; and University of San Francisco President Jesuit Father Stephen Privett.
A youth rally will be held at 3 p.m. at Fort Mason.
The 24th Annual Interfaith Memorial Service for the Victims of Abortion will be held at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 21 at the cathedral. Speakers will include Orthodox Abbess Mother Melania of Holy Assumption Monastery in Calistoga; 40 Days for Life founder David Bereit; and Father Pavone.
EWTN will broadcast live from the Walk for Life beginning at 10 a.m. in Justin Herman Plaza. A rebroadcast will air Jan. 23 at 6:30 a.m.
For more information on the youth rally, www.youthrally.blogspot.com; on the walk, www.walkforlifewc.com.