Skies clear just in time for Walk for Life West Coast

By Gibbons J. Cooney
Special to California Catholic Daily

Throughout the week leading up to San Francisco’s 8th Annual Walk for Life West Coast, weather forecasters had predicted the arrival of the first major storm of the season.

The predictions seemed all too accurate as on Friday, Jan. 20, the storm roared into the Bay Area, bringing high winds, driving rain, and localized flooding. Severe weather alerts were in effect for all Bay Area counties. Rain continued to fall until nearly dawn on Saturday, Jan. 21.

But as the Saturday sun rose, the winds drove the clouds out of San Francisco and the 8th Annual Walk for Life West Coast began under sunny, clear skies. 

The 2012 Walk and Rally for Life began, for the first time, in the heart of San Francisco: the Civic Center Plaza. The new location, larger than the former rally site of Justin Herman Plaza, accommodated the Walk’s ever increasing numbers. The plaza also contains fenced-in playgrounds — a great convenience to the many parents who bring their children to the rally and walk. The playgrounds were being well used by the little ones.

Tens of thousands of dedicated pro-lifers, including bishops from all over California, reverently listened to the invocation given by Greek Orthodox Fr. Aris Metrakos, protopresbyter of San Francisco’s Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, and a longtime champion of life.

Lori Hoye, wife of pro-life hero, the Rev. Walter Hoye, followed Fr. Metrakos. She shared her story, and her special concern for the devastation abortion has caused in the African-American community. Mrs. Hoye was joined on stage by the Sisters of Life.

Mrs. Hoye was followed by OB-GYN Dr. Vansen Wong. Dr. Wong, in his surgical scrubs, was joined on stage by other pro-life doctors and health professionals. He opened by asking the crowd, “If you have taken the life of another human being, raise your hand.” He then revealed that he had previously worked as an abortionist, ending the lives of hundreds of unborn babies over a seven-year span.

“What changed is that God got a hold of me… I now regret the loss of every single precious life,” he said. Dr. Wong described his current work as a pro-life physician, and closed by saying, “Abortion is intolerable, irrational, and it has no place in civilized society.”

Dr. Wong was followed by Jacquie Stalnaker, a spokesperson and national coordinator for Silent No More Awareness Campaign. Stalnaker, a former Miss West Virginia, related a horrific story of being forced by her then-boyfriend, at gunpoint, to an abortion clinic. There, she suffered an abortion while under the impression that she was merely undergoing an examination.

To this day, she said, she remembers the abortionist and nurse starting by saying, “You have a Band-Aid problem” and finishing by saying, as she was in terrible pain, “wait, just one more part…” As soon as the “procedure” was finished, Stalnaker was released, and collapsed in the streets. She was in a hospital for three days. She “survived,” but described the 24-year-toll the experience caused. She now devotes her life to helping women in similar situations.

The rally closed with an exhortation by the Rev. Clenard Childress, one of America’s great orators. “You are the candle… you are the light… you are the salt of the earth,” Childress told the crowd. “This is more than a pro-life movement. This is a Holy Spirit movement because the spirit addresses evil.”

Walkers then proceeded down Market Street. The new route, through the heart of San Francisco, provided far more exposure to the Walk, and had some unanticipated benefits. The tall buildings greatly magnified the volume of chants and singing of the walkers until the city’s financial district resounded with pro-life drums, chants, prayers and songs. The chants of the walkers could be heard at a distance of at least half a mile away.

Serious estimates of how many walkers participated vary from 40,000 to 55,000. Videotape made at the end of the Walk showed tightly packed marchers on Market Street passing for one hour and 10 minutes.

As always, the hallmark of the walk for Life West Coast was the presence of the young — from Thomas Aquinas College, John Paul the Great University, St. Mary’s High school in Phoenix, from the University of California at Santa Barbara, from Stanford University, from USF, and from other schools and churches all over the western United States and beyond.

Devany Anie, a freshman at John Paul the Great University, was there. This is the first time she has attended the Walk for Life West Coast, although she has attended a number of the Marches for Life in Washington, DC. She offered a simple and clear explanation for her presence.

“I am passionate about the issue of abortion, and the dignity of life from conception to natural death,” she said. “We must stand for those who cannot stand for themselves. We have to be here as a physical witness.”

As of Sunday morning, the cold rain and wind had returned to San Francisco. But, by then, the 8th Annual Walk for Life West Coast was over.



Posted Monday, January 23, 2012 1:26 AM By charlio
We had to stop for nearly 10 minutes while the Police were preventing some confused and hurting people from furthering their own hurtfulness. I saw several female officers with stark haircuts who had very tense faces while having to confront the protestors who one would think are of the same political persuasion. Please be sure to pray for the confused and hurting people. Your prayers will be very powerful when accompanied by sacrifices. Those hurt people are very precious to the Lord. He came to die for each of them alone. Let’s be sure to put the Lord’s concerns first.

Posted Monday, January 23, 2012 3:13 AM By Joe
I was there. What a great event! Very heartening to be among so many pro-lifers.

Posted Monday, January 23, 2012 8:02 AM By k
God bless all participants.

Posted Monday, January 23, 2012 8:38 AM By Wheels
I was there and it was inspirational. Here we have this huge walk and we are vitually ignored by the media. No problem, we know the King of Kings and Lord of Lord heard us.

Posted Monday, January 23, 2012 9:49 AM By Idaho Pete
West Coast Life Parade? What parade? Sad to say this and the Washington DC parade received little or no attention from the media, actually none in my area of Idaho. This has been going on for years and the message and impact of them is greatly muted and diminished by a biased media in their reporting or no reporting. I have long advocated that the leadership of the pro-life movement continue what they are doing but change tactics somewhat as 1.2 to 1.4 millions babies are killed from anniversary parade to anniversary parade. What has the greatest influence of persuasion? Abortion politicians? Courts and Judges? Or the media? I say it’s the media and they have been, from the beginning, the number ONE enemy. Since they avoid us I say let’s politely and civially get in their faces by picking a second day to march throughout the nations in cities big and small in the Spring/Summer, call it “Truth in Media Pro-life March”. Instead of marching to state capitols march to the corporate headquarters and locations of the print and TV medias. Have articulate spokespersons and a few camera people, protest the normal abortion issue while challenging the media for their bias and unfair reporting for the pro-life side. Literally if thousands of people show up at their working doorstep of the media, how are they or their competitors going to ignore that. I believe if this was done it would have a profound effect on the heart and soul of this nation and speed up the process of ending Roe v. Wade. For the babies. God Bless.

Posted Monday, January 23, 2012 9:54 AM By jon
Last Saturday was the 3rd Walk I have attended. I was at the very first Walk seven years ago. The event just keeps growing. Last Saturday’s was indeed great because, for one thing, marching down Market Street, a major avenue of the City, made for a powerful, symbolic statement and testimony. This was a better route I thought than the one that started at Justin Herman Plaza and ending at the Marina Green.

Posted Monday, January 23, 2012 10:08 AM By Buzz
The Pro-Life speakers were outstanding. Each had a power packed delivery and inspired us all.

Posted Monday, January 23, 2012 10:35 AM By JLS
I spent the day first walking an hour around a desert floor, and then hiked four and a half hours up around and down a desert mountain with an elevation rise of about 700 feet on stumbly rocks. Not that I crawled on my knees in this venture such as one would do at Knock, Ireland, but the bruising, near blistering, cramping from insufficient water, and so on reminded me of that penance. The reward for me was extremely clean and easy to breathe air, instead of the stench of the corrupt cities. Instead of sacrificing the lives of unborn human babies, I’ve got two chukar in the marinade. Yes, I went through the Glorious Mysteries and ran out of more … guess I should’ve prayed some other decades too. Often my bounty does not arrive until I’ve done a bit of praying … can’t say for sure there is a pattern though, but it seems there is. This little trip was like trying to do well in little things, so that bigger things will turn out favorable for the Lord also. St Therese the Little Flower paced her room as prayer for souls elsewhere on the globe … I like to liken my desert ramblings … in a little way … to those of that Saint. BTW, the occasional desert flowers one finds at this time of year can be tiny but beautiful, just like an unborn soul.

Posted Monday, January 23, 2012 11:58 AM By Sandra
I hope you are watching the East Coast march in DC. Here are HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS. Abp Dolan has been very strong, as well as many other Bishops who are attending! There will be an encore if you missed it at 2pm on Saturday – EWTN.

Posted Monday, January 23, 2012 12:07 PM By JLS
The last time I walked in the March for Life in Washington DC, it had not snowed all winter til 9am that morning. Kids from out of state showed up in sneakers and loafers with cotton socks, plain shirt, no hat, no sweater, no jacket, no coat, no parka. Girls wore pumps, light blouses … they were all cold and wet, yet they all marched the several hours as the snow fell, reaching almost a foot by the time it was concluded. People always cheered when priests showed up, or the bishops on the stand. Why did they cheer? Because so few clergy showed up. And abortion rages on. That was 1987.

Posted Monday, January 23, 2012 4:32 PM By The Rose
Good for you jon. I was at the March in DC three years ago.

Posted Monday, January 23, 2012 6:38 PM By Maryanne Leonard
Unborn soul . . . wow, I don’t think I’ve ever heard that phrase before, JLS, or if I did, it did not register as it did when I read your post. Thank you for that, JLS. It’s so powerful, even more so than thinking of the unborn baby himself or herself. It is the soul denied that is so excruciating to contemplate, don’t you agree? How can anyone dare to deny a soul’s access to the life God gave it? Heartbreaking.

Posted Monday, January 23, 2012 7:05 PM By Hibernians for Life
This was my 6th WC Walk. It gets better and bigger each year. Lot fewer counter demonstrators this year. They know they have a supporter in the White House. What was new was the professionslly hung “Pro-Abortion” flags on every other lamp post on Market St. A very costly expense for Planned Parenthood? Impressed by the “Survivors” (born after ’73) who lost 1/3 of their generation to abortion. Well done Kids, it makes a graphic image for all of us. Thanks to the Committee for the great planning. See you all next year.

Posted Monday, January 23, 2012 7:55 PM By Amy
It was a glorious day to be with thousands of Pro Lifers. Our hats are off to Eva Muntean, Dolores Meehan and Ignatius Press for organizing such a flawless event. The day was perfect weather wise, the speakers were outstanding and everyone there was a witness for the Life of the Unborn. Thank you to Fr. Mark Mary, Doug Barry and the staff of EWTN for the wonderful coverage on the WALK. There was no coverage from our local media except for 4 lines the next day in the Sunday paper. And last but not least a huge debt of gratitude to all the courteous volunteers for the WALK who were there at every turn to offer help and assistance. Many, many thanks to one and all. What more could we ask for except for Roe Vs Wade to be overturned.

Posted Monday, January 23, 2012 10:38 PM By charlio
The Holy Angels are shouting the coverage from the tops of the skyscrapers. And on the Last Day, when our Lord sets all things to right, those who braved the cold, wet, fatigue and scorn, will have any confessed shame diminished, by the eternal witness of having stood up for the right. History doesn’t laud the names of those who slunk along under the benefits of the peculiar institution of slavery, only those who stood up against the wrong, in some cases shedding their blood struggling against evil. When the hideous abomination is over and done, of the killing the most innocent simply for convenience regardless of the pretext, those of you who stood up for the right will have a crown in heaven that nothing can ever tarnish forever.

Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 4:03 PM By Kenneth M. Fisher
We had the joy of standing or sitting in the cold rain at Anaheim Planned Barenhood. I called all present, some 35 to 50 (I didn’t take a count) “pennance makers”. When I saw that it was raining on Saturday morning, I thought that there would just be a few of us. Thank God and His Mother, I was wrong! God bless, yours in Their Hearts, Kenneth M. Fisher

Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012 11:16 PM By Abeca Christian
I love it when God’s people unite to encourage one another to do what is right. God bless you!

Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2012 9:05 AM By Maryanne Leonard
Legal abortion is a peculiar institution even worse than slavery. I would rather be a slave than a victim of abortion.

Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2012 6:47 PM By Abeca Christian
Maryanne Leonard great point you have made! Love it!

Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2012 7:48 PM By JLS
I will be using your phrase, Maryanne: “I would rather be a slave than a victim of abortion”.