San Francisco columnist says events like Walk For Life don’t change minds — ignores history of pro-life converts

News from the Trenches

By Gibbons J. Cooney
Special to California Catholic Daily

According to a Jan. 17 column published in the San Francisco Chronicle, the annual Walk for Life West Coast is a big waste of time for both sides.

Columnist C.W. Nevius virtually begged people not to come out in opposition to Saturday’s Walk for Life West Coast. He argued that such opposition is useless: “When the walk concludes Saturday, you can bet that no one will have changed his or her position…” 

“The best approach, of course, would be to let them have their moment, ignore them, and then go back to real life in San Francisco,” wrote Nevius. “That’s the approach that will be taken by the local chapter of Planned Parenthood.”

But Nevius — and Planned Parenthood — appear to be ignoring history. The pro-life movement in general, and the Walk for Life West Coast in particular, are filled with people, once deeply involved in abortion, who have experienced a change of heart and mind.

Examples include Abby Johnson, former abortion clinic director for Planned Parenthood and author of Unplanned. Johnson was the keynote speaker at the 2011 Walk for Life West Coast. She directly attributes her change of heart and mind to the presence of the 40 Days For Life vigil at the Bryan, TX abortion business where she worked.

Another striking example is Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a co-founder of NARAL, who later stated regretfully, “I am one of those who helped usher in this barbaric age.” But Dr. Nathanson, too, experienced a change of heart and mind and became one of America’s most powerful pro-life advocates.

And of course there is Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade, who is now an outspoken opponent of abortion.

This year one of the keynote speakers at the Walk for Life West Coast will be Dr. Vansen Wong. Dr. Wong’s credentials are impressive: Stanford University and the University of California at San Francisco’s Medical School. Like Dr. Nathanson, like Abby Johnson, Dr. Wong was once an abortion provider. And, like the others he has had a change of heart and mind: “I believe that abortion has erased the value of human life,” said Dr. Wong. “We have created language, philosophy and institutions that legitimize ending the lives of unborn babies without reflection on what we are doing… Where will the killing stop?”

Now Dr. Wong speaks at rallies for Berkeley Students For Life, speaks at rallies for 40 Days For Life, and, if Mr. Nevius comes out this Saturday, he will hear Dr. Wong speak at the rally for San Francisco’s Eighth Annual Walk for Life.

Perhaps, though, Nevius is half-right: similar changes of heart and mind have not turned people from the pro-life side to the pro-abortion side. The exceptions, significantly enough, appear to be mainly among politicians, a group not noted for their fidelity to principle: Ted Kennedy and Jesse Jackson in the 1970s, Al Gore in the 1980s.

As Fr. Aris Metrakos, who will give the invocation at the Walk, has said, legal abortion “…exposes the duplicity and opportunism of the majority of the political class.”

So Nevius is probably right to warn abortion supporters away, just as abortion supporters are probably right to try and avoid looking at sonograms — because, when faced with the reality of abortion, changes of heart and mind go mostly in only one direction.



Posted Wednesday, January 18, 2012 1:44 AM By charlio
One set of minds that have been changed are those of the Police. They contrast the unhappy protesters with the resolutely courteous marchers, who invariably thank the Police for their presence. San Francisco is actually a very religious place. It’s just that other kinds of people get all the attention. My bumper-sticker about it: “It’s okay if you need to act out. We’ll just pretend not to notice.”

Posted Wednesday, January 18, 2012 5:58 AM By Sandra
If C.W. Nevius was a “fair and balanced” writer, he might have interviewed some of our sisters and brothers that are post abortive. From that first hand standpoint he would surely be corrected as to the importance of not killing the unborn. C.W. Nevius is so closed minded that his “fear” of life is papable. He needs the prayers of the faithful that he turns toward his Creator and finds salvation.

Posted Wednesday, January 18, 2012 6:07 AM By MAC
The bigoted secular media is merely trying to discourage right-to-life people from excersizing their right to Constitutionally peaceably assemble. If the crowds are large enough, it will be reported (although downplayed) and can help support politicians who sit on the fence regarding life issues. Everyone who can should attend the Washington DC march on Monday, or the SFO march on Saturday. Make your pro-life signs. Record both marches from EWTN, and compare the secular press coverage about the numbers or interview 15 or so pro-abortionists pretending they are great in number.

Posted Wednesday, January 18, 2012 6:33 AM By JLS
The family I was born and raised in had a strong unspoken understanding of the sanctity of unborn babies. The protection of babies was paramount. So later on in college the initial discussion of abortion I experienced pretty much resolved into a caricaturing away the reality of human life in the womb. My conclusion is that if the conversation labors to bear out the real nature of pregnancy and the onset of a human being, then people will gain understanding and with it they will gain respect for the life given us by God. To understand this life, one also begins the journey to understanding our mortality and our need for humility before God. There are perhaps countless ways of generating the truth but there is only one way of denying it; humility has many children but denial has none.

Posted Wednesday, January 18, 2012 6:59 AM By jp
Nevius has a good point. Abby Johnson and Nathanson were converted through prayers, not political rallies. The march for life is a great show of support for the pro life position in the civic arena, and it is important on a certain level, but it is not an event centered around prayer and conversion. Prayer is what will turn hearts.

Posted Wednesday, January 18, 2012 7:36 AM By Life Lady 
Isn’t the whole point of the Walk to be together in solidarity with one another in affirmation of our collective respect and understanding of the dignity and uniqueness of every human being? We celebrate Life, we come together and peacefully demonstrate our love for eachother as people, and remember those who have been cheated out of the ability to do the same through abortion. And we pray! Perhaps his call to ignore us is more rooted in his fear of that many people praying.

Posted Wednesday, January 18, 2012 7:48 AM By bud
The last three paragraphs of this article would certainly make very appropriate wide and readable banners for the march. 1. legal abortion “…exposes the duplicity and opportunism of the majority of the political class.” 2. Face the Reality; look at the sonograms for a change of heart. 3. Politicians, a group not noted for their fidelity to principle: Ted Kennedy and Jesse Jackson in the 1970s, Al Gore in the 1980s.

Posted Wednesday, January 18, 2012 8:12 AM By JMJ
If Mr. Nevius is right, then what is it with the hate groups that march for evil; such as the K.K.K.; the homosexuals with their non-gay parades, the Nazi party & of course, the anti-life, anti-God groups (P.P., Naral, “catholics for choice, etc) that have no respect for women or their rights? Such a waste of time, also. It must be horrible to be so blind & to live in complete darkness as he is in, so let us pray that the Holy Light of Jesus will also shine upon him. +JMJ+

Posted Wednesday, January 18, 2012 8:13 AM By Brian S
It wouldn’t be difficult to find similar contemporary dismissals of the effects of the Freedom Marches, or of Occupy Wall Street, for that matter – yet just two days ago we were celebrating Martin Luther King’s birthday while several Republican presidential candidates denounced “vulture capitalism”. Of course these protests work!

Posted Wednesday, January 18, 2012 8:27 AM By PatC
Go Walkers!!!!!! Know that you are also representing the thousands of us around the state who strongly support your actions and who can’t make the trip to SF to join you. Remember, “When two or more are gathered in My name, I will be among you.” You are doing God’s work and we believe a new pair of walking shoes will be waiting for you in Heaven.

Posted Wednesday, January 18, 2012 9:21 AM By JOHN
This columnist needs to do his research! Some major converts are: Dr Bernard Nathanson Norma McCorvey Alveda King

Posted Wednesday, January 18, 2012 10:14 AM By Deacon Vince
What else do you expect from the Cronicle of “sodom-by-the-sea?”

Posted Wednesday, January 18, 2012 11:13 AM By MG
SAVE THE BABY HUMANS Make your new year’s resolution to help protect precious life and their habitats, the womb Human Babies depend on the womb for oxygen, nutrients and the potential to become a nine month old baby. Due to the effects of abortion the human baby environ is a virtual hunting ground for abortionists. The human baby population is receding at an unprecedented rate. Research indicates 1 of 4 people will be gone in our lifetime. The loss of the wombs habitat is one of the greatest threats to human babies than any other species on earth past, present or future. Looking at this from the extinction of 52 million people aborted since Roe. these areas in America would be extinct of humans. Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Iowa, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin, Nevada, Wyoming, North Dakota, Montana, New Mexico, Arizona, Missouri, Arkansas, Washington and the cities of New Orleans and Inglewood (California).

Posted Wednesday, January 18, 2012 1:04 PM By Elizabeth
Yes, I read this Chronicle reporters remarks…way off the mark!!! That is for sure. Apparently he has NEVER been to a Walk for Life or March for Life….the people are so peaceful and reverent, ….while walking, people are praying for the conversion of the ‘other side’ and I know of one occasion where a young men from a Catholic High School was hit by a woman with her sign, from the ‘other side’ and I asked him what he did then….. he told me he smiled at her and kept on praying!!! And that from a young teenage boy. Yes, you can definately tell the difference between the two sides…..they are a sad lot and need our prayers.

Posted Wednesday, January 18, 2012 1:57 PM By Former Walker
And after the walk – what then? Everyone goes home and says how great it all was that so many people are together. But, again, what happens after everyone goes home? Any babies saved from extermination? Perhaps some would have been saved by sidewalk counselors except they felt that the walk was more important. In fact, I bet that some of the abortuaries have double-scheduled for Saturday since the “sidewalk” will be in San Francisco instead of in front of the death sites.

Posted Wednesday, January 18, 2012 3:42 PM By Life Lady
“Former” what is wrong with you?! Plenty of people don’t make the walk because they would rather continue to counsel in front of their regular abortion mills. I know that is true of the counselors in San Diego and other places. When was the last time you were out there, praying and counseling or praying for a counselor in the middle of a save so that the woman in danger of having an abortion can turn around? Besides, that many people praying for one thing, saving babies, God does a lot with those prayers, and they serve to save many we don’t know about. We don’t know how many WERE saved by that marck in the past, or in the future. I just know that last year, I was all set to go, and got the flu so badly, i could not lift my head for days. What do you think I did? Offered my own suffering for those at the march and for any babies in danger. I have every faith in God that something good came out of my not being able to go. This year I am staying home, and praying, so that my voice is also heard by the One who truly listens.

Posted Wednesday, January 18, 2012 3:50 PM By JLS
It’s a step towards forming a serious public conscience, Former Walker. Instead of the bishops leading prolife, they’re following the laity, and this is why it is taking decade upon decade. There is a proverb in one of the wisdom books, about how sad it is to see a prince walking next to his horse instead of riding on it.

Posted Wednesday, January 18, 2012 5:59 PM By contrary
If it is a waste of time to oppose the Walk for Life, why is Mr. Nevius wasting his time telling people not to waste their time? In spite of himself, the poor man is expending a lot of time and energy trying to convince himself and others to ignore the pro-life movement. This is an encouraging sign, because it shows that he cannot really ignore it any more.

Posted Thursday, January 19, 2012 10:35 PM By OneoftheSheep
And, I am hazarding a guess that Mr. Nevius would have tried to discourage MLK from his marches as well. Sorry, Mr. Nevius, we listen to the heartbeat of the unborn child and that child says: SPEAK FOR ME, WALK FOR ME, WITNESS FOR ME, I NEED YOUR HELP.

Posted Friday, January 20, 2012 9:47 AM By Anne T.
JP, ora et labora, prayer and work. It takes both prayer and action. The two go together. At one time I thought that some might be right in saying that the unborn child was just a blob at first until I saw all the picutres of abortions, saw sonograms and read about the heatbeat at just a few months, etc. Ora et labora.

Posted Friday, January 20, 2012 10:55 AM By jp
Amen Anne T! No labora without ora, which was my point. Christ is King. Salvation and the saving of souls is at stake. Our Blessed Mother is our refuge. Ora et labora.

Posted Friday, January 20, 2012 11:22 AM By Anne T.
JP, as I read some of these articles and write, I am also crocheting a beautiful, chic, multi-colored, large (almost crib-sized) blanket for the latest and youngest member of our family. Ora et labora.

Posted Friday, January 20, 2012 11:32 AM By Anne T.
That is in between praying the Rosary and chaplets with my other duties. Ora et labora. Ora et labora. We should not forget either. Many like to say that pro-lifers do nothing for children after they are born. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Posted Friday, January 20, 2012 9:36 PM By Kenneth M. Fisher
jp, At every one I ever attended, and I have attended many, prayers has always been a very prominent feature, especially the Holy Rosary. Where are you coming from? God bless, yours in Their Hearts, Kenneth M. Fisher