by SueAnn Howell
(OSV News) — Two of the largest pro-life walks on the West Coast mark milestone anniversaries Jan. 20, and follow in the wake of new abortion laws enacted in 2023.
This year marks the 20th Walk for Life West Coast and the 10th OneLife LA celebration. The annual events, which include speakers, music, and family-friendly activities, are held in San Francisco and Los Angeles, respectively, attracting tens of thousands of men, women and children joyfully witnessing to the dignity of human life from conception to natural death.
“Twenty years ago, we didn’t know what to expect,” Eva Muntean, co-chair and one of the founders of the Walk for Life West Coast, told OSV News. “We were overwhelmed with joy by the turnout that first year, which was just a few thousand compared to the tens of thousands who walk now.”
Muntean added that at the first walk in 2005, “San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Kamala Harris and the entire Board of Supervisors held a counter rally — which was poorly attended, I might add!”
The Walk for Life West Coast has only grown in size, filling Civic Center Plaza, and extending for more than a mile of people who walk down Market Street, Muntean noted.
The event begins with a 12:30 p.m. rally at Civic Center Plaza followed by the walk itself at 1:30 p.m.
This year’s walk features Lila Rose, president and founder of Live Action, a human rights nonprofit dedicated to exposing the abortion industry’s treatment of women and families and revealing the humanity of the unborn child.
Kaya Jones, a Canadian-born singer, songwriter, producer and former member of the group Pussycat Dolls, will headline the Walk for Life West Coast rally at Civic Center Plaza. She will share about the painful circumstances surrounding her abortions and perform “Breathe Into Me,” a new song she wrote to encourage women who become pregnant to choose life.
“The inspiration was that God has written our story before we came here,” Jones explained in an interview with Catholic San Francisco, quoting Psalm 139, “‘For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.'”
Other Walk for Life speakers include Kimberly Henkel, founder and executive director of Springs of Love, a ministry equipping Catholics to discern and live out the call to foster and adopt, and co-founder of Springs in the Desert, dedicated to accompanying those struggling with infertility and loss; and the Rev. Clenard Childress Jr. who has spoken at almost every Walk for Life West Coast since its founding.
The pastor of New Calvary Baptist Church in Montclair, N.J., Rev. Childress is one of the most respected leaders in the pro-life movement, and the founder of BlackGenocide.org, having a special emphasis on eliminating the scourge of abortion from African American communities.
Marking its 10th year, OneLife LA began in 2005 at the direction of Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez.
“This was his vision,” Michael Donaldson, senior director of the archdiocese’s Office of Life, Justice, and Peace, which coordinates the annual event, told OSV News. “He wanted to recognize human dignity in all its forms as a matter of social justice.”
OneLife LA events kick off at 11:00 a.m. at 845 N. Alameda Street in the historic heart of Los Angeles. The walk begins at 12:30 p.m., followed by live music and speakers at 1:30 p.m. at LA State Historic Park. A 5:00 p.m. Requiem Mass for the Unborn follows the conclusion of the event at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
“Coming together and advocating for all the focus areas that OneLife LA highlights, such as homelessness, abortion, immigration, foster care, human trafficking, etc., is one of the ways we live out our faith in a very concrete way,” added Benito Medrano of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Orange, California. Medrano will serve as one of the event emcees.
“In Southern California, participating in OneLife LA is the biggest opportunity to demonstrate our Catholic faith and commitment to human dignity,” he explained.
Another OneLife LA emcee, Capuchin Franciscan Father Victor Taglianetti, is charged with greeting the crowds and getting them excited for the event’s walk. “As a religious friar and a priest of the Catholic Church, I feel that it is important for someone like me to be an example and witness to others in the church, and outside the church, to the dignity of all human life,” he said.
“The degradation of this core belief that all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God has contributed to so many problems that we see in our society, not just with the termination of children in the womb, but also basic identity issues,” he noted.
“Because of this attack on our dignity and worth as human beings, we are losing sight of who God made us to be. Through events like One Life LA, God is reclaiming his children as his own and reminding all of us that we are all precious in his eyes,” he said.
Abortion rights were enshrined into the California Constitution in 2022, after Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion throughout the U.S. since 1973, was overturned by the high court earlier in June. A majority of Californians voted yes to Proposition 1, guaranteeing persons the fundamental right to an abortion.
Nearly a dozen new pro-abortion measures were signed into law in 2023, further solidifying California’s status as the nation’s foremost sanctuary state for abortions.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research firm for the abortion industry, California has seen a 20% increase in abortions within the first six months of 2023, above where it was in 2020.
“Life is the answer,” Walk for Life West Coast’s Muntean said, “and although California has become even more pro-abortion under the law since Roe v. Wade was overturned, we know life and love will triumph in the end. We continue to witness to life as we peacefully work to change hearts and minds of those who have been seduced by the lies of the abortion industry.”