“Fue el sonido más hermoso que escuche” (“The most beautiful sound I ever heard”).
Each year, as we look back at the Walk for Life West Coast, there are a number of wonderful experiences to recall: great speakers, the beautiful Mass, all the young people in attendance, the diversity of the pro-life movement, and seeing hearts and minds changing in front of our eyes.
But the 15th Annual Walk for Life West Coast, which contained all of these things, will always be remembered for one single moment, when “…seven pregnant women and their unborn children ascended the stage, put microphones to their bellies, and filled San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza with the sounds of tiny heartbeats…. The heartbeats brought an unprecedented response from the tens of thousands of pro-lifers who overflowed the plaza, and even shook the organizers. “I had tears in my eyes,” said Walk for Life co-chair Eva Muntean “and it literally sent a shiver down my spine. So beautiful, so fragile, so vulnerable.” Attendees were equally moved, with photographs showing some women wiping their eyes, while others were moved to elation. The online comments about the experience included “amazing”…”awesome”… “beautiful”…”fantastic,” and “Fue el sonido más hermoso que escuche” (“The most beautiful sound I ever heard”).
Video of the mothers and babies went viral, seen by hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people, the tiny heartbeats a thundering affirmation of the Culture of Life.
Two of the seven pregnant mothers were also speakers at the rally: former Planned Parenthood employees Abby Johnson and Patricia Sandoval. Both women walked away from their jobs at Planned Parenthood in disgust, both are now among the most effective and articulate pro-life advocates in the country. They were joined by Fr. Shenan Bouqet of Human Life International, who gave an overview of the present state of the pro-life movement. The Reverend Walter Hoye of Oakland gave the Rally a powerful sendoff, recounting the words that earned him a 30-day sentence in Santa Rita jail, later overturned as a violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution: “God loves you and your baby. Let us help you.” He asked the crowd to respond to his questions: “Does God love you?” YES! “Does God Love Your baby?” YES! “Will we help you?” YES!
Walk co-chair Dolores Meehan presented the St. Gianna Molla award for pro-life heroism to Mrs. Chastidy Ronan, the beloved former Executive Director of San Francisco’s Alpha Pregnancy Center. Chastidy, who did so much to build Alpha into the organization it is today, has since been taken home to the Lord, after battling cancer for a number of years. The pro-life movement has a new intercessor in heaven.
CBS Local affiliate KPIX estimated the crowd at 50,000. As always, there were a small group of anti-life protesters—this year the smallest ever, numbering between 25-30 people. Walkers came from all over the western United States and as far away as Wyoming, Nebraska, and even the island of Fiji. Colleges were well represented, with Students For Life groups from UC Berkeley, UC Davis, San Jose State, and Stanford (among others) in attendance. Catholic Colleges were well represented, including Wyoming Catholic College and Thomas Aquinas College, who sent over 200 students. Catholic High School representation was the highest yet, and the enormous number of young people lent the day its characteristic joy-filled and hopeful tone.
But great though the speakers and Walkers were, the 15th Annual Walk for Life West Coast will always be remembered for the tiny heartbeats of the babies.