Anti-abortion activists attending a march down Market Street in San Francisco on Saturday offered personal stories about how an abortion negatively affected their lives and expressed renewed hope that the procedure will be outlawed or at least further curtailed now that Republicans are back in control of Congress.
Thousands of people rallied across from San Francisco City Hall as part of the 11th annual Walk for Life West Coast, an off-shoot of the March for Life held in Washington every year since 1974 to mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States a year earlier.
The Vatican ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, told the multigenerational, multi-ethnic and heavily Catholic crowd that he was encouraged by the House vote on Thursday's anniversary of Roe v. Wade to permanently forbid federal funds for most abortions. A White House veto threat means the legislation has little chance of becoming law, but Vigano said it should because he thinks abortion is antithetical to values the nation holds dear.
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"It could be, perhaps, the only one who does not have the freedom of speech is the unborn,'' he said.
Organizer Karen McLaughlin said about 50,000 people from across the western United States attended last year's Walk for Life and that she expected attendance to be the same this year, although the group did not plan to have a count from Saturday's event until after the post-rally march. Participants preparing to embark on the downtown walk and carrying signs with slogans such as "I Am The Pro-Life Generation'' and ``1/3 Of Our Generation Has Been Killed by Abortion'' filled seven city blocks.
John Bianchi, 20, watched the rally with two 16-year-old members of his Auburn, California church, Natasha McGown and Emily Bolas. All three said that while they know more people their age who support abortion rights, they never doubt their own strong anti-abortion views.
"I don't think there is any cause that is as important as someone's life,'' Bianchi said.
"If you think you are mature enough to be having sex, you should be mature enough to have a child,'' McGown said.
One of the speakers at the rally was Julia Holcomb, a mother of seven from Texas who four years ago went public with her side of the abortion she underwent in 1975 when she was 17 years old and five months pregnant with Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler's child. Tyler recounted part of the story and expressed regret in his 2011 autobiography, which Holcomb, who already was involved in abortion protests when the book was published, said ultimately forced her to reveal the experience to her children once her name and picture ended up in the tabloids.
"To any woman who has had an abortion, I want to let you know there is healing and forgiveness available to you,'' she said.
Abortion-rights supporters did not interrupt the rally, but they staged a counter-demonstration along the march route.