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Friday, January 20, 2006

Walking for Life Takes Courage and Faith

Valerie Schmalz

My four boys will be walking under a feminist flag this Saturday — a pro-life feminist flag — along San Francisco’s waterfront. They will meet with — if last year was any indicator — lots of nasty demonstrators along the route. Although they will be not be walking under signs that mention Jesus, it is our family’s faith in God’s promise that gives us the courage to walk.

Animated by Faith

This will be the second year for the Walk for Life West Coast — the largest outpouring of pro-life sentiment in more than a decade, probably in two decades or even three — in this supposedly pro-choice stronghold on the West Coast.

Although the Walk does not espouse any religious belief, there is no question that it is faith and courage that animates many of the participants. The San Francisco archdiocese endorses it and promotes it and bishops from Oakland, Santa Rosa, and San Francisco will participate in its activities. One of the three main speakers will be African-American Baptist minister Clenard Childress, a passionate civil rights advocate in the Christian tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Last year, on Saturday, January 22, 2005, nearly 8,000 people walked 2½ miles along the city’s scenic downtown waterfront, through Fisherman’s Wharf and onto Marina Green in sight of the Golden Gate Bridge, surprising the media and the organizers with their numbers.

Another 1,000 or more pro-abortion counter-demonstrators lined the route last year. The San Francisco mayor and the board of supervisors declared the day Stand Up for Choice Day, and Mayor Gavin Newsom and some supervisors spoke at a counter-rally, revving up the pro-abortion demonstrators who then ran down Market Street and began lining the route, trying to disrupt the Walk. At one point counter-demonstrators barred the route, so walkers had to detour.

This year, fortunately, Newsom hasn’t said a thing, but the anarchist and radical websites and email chains are rousing their troops to turn out.

It Has Come to This

For my children, my husband, and I, it is the terrible scourge of abortion that brings us to this point: to let our children face this invective and what is honestly a scary situation. We are doing it because we feel it is time someone stands up for life and for women here in San Francisco. We are tired of yielding the political and public relations arena to the radical pro-abortion types. We know and love many people who have made the wrong choice of abortion because of a society that pushes its terrible false promise. And we know that women and men bear that pain for a lifetime, even when lifted up by the love and forgiveness of Jesus.

The message of the Walk for Life West Coast is clear: Women Deserve Better than Abortion. It’s a slogan coined by Feminists for Life of America, but the message reaches beyond pro-life feminists to the many, many people here who see that abortion hurts women. In San Francisco, until recently, there were more abortions than live births and we now have the lowest percentage of children in the population of any major city in the US. Other factors are in play, but certainly it is not a culture that values or supports life or family life.

For my sons though, they will attend the Walk for Life with commitment but mostly because of their mother and father, aunt and grandmother. Their Aunt Dolores Meehan is a feisty San Franciscan who helped organize the Walk and whose legendary aunt-ness is demonstrated daily in her love for them (not to mention some great birthday presents.)

This year, it looks like even more than last year’s 8,000 people will be walking. The Walk’s speakers are people of courage and conviction: Childress, founder of; columnist Star Parker; and Feminists for Life of America President Serrin Foster.

We All Deserve Better

For our kids, despite all the love that will surround them, the Walk is rough.

Our third son, just 9, is daunted by the prospect of the Walk because despite all the police protection, it was a scary prospect to see and hear those madly yelling, gesturing pro-abortion counter-demonstrators. Some threw eggs and condoms, while others spit. But our 11-year-old consoles his younger brother this year, saying, “Joseph, we have to do this because we want to save the babies. And we have to be there for Aunty D.”

It makes me want to cry that my children have to cope with these realities, but in San Francisco, pro-abortion is just another word for business as usual.

What are parents to do? My husband Patrick and I have chosen to tell our boys the reality (gently couched) — and every night our 6-year-old or our 9-year-old, pray, “End Abortion.” For the many families who will walk — and they and the college students from surrounding campuses were the majority last year — this is a stand of principle and faith.

We truly believe women — and children! — deserve better than abortion.

Please pray for all of us walking tomorrow.

  • © Copyright 2006 Catholic Exchange

    Valerie Schmalz is a writer for IgnatiusInsight. She worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press and in print and broadcast media for ten years. She holds a BA in Government from the University of San Francisco and a Master's of Science from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She is the former director of Birthright of San Francisco and has four children.

    For more information and a schedule for the Walk for Life West Coast, please click

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