SAN DIEGO — “Pro-Life=Pro-Women” was the theme of the sixth annual San Diego Walk for Life.
Almost 4,000 people gathered in Balboa Park for the three-hour event, which featured a one-mile walk, a line-up of speakers, and about 45 exhibitor booths representing a variety of pro-life and pro-family organizations.
Though unwavering in their opposition to abortion, many of the event’s speakers expressed sympathy for the frightening situation in which many pregnant women find themselves, and they stressed that forgiveness is always available to those who seek it.
“The thing that’s important to remember is that women that choose abortions don’t really want to abort their babies,” said Sarah Jensen, director of Adoption Center of San Diego, during her remarks. “They’re desperate and afraid.”
Sarah Saccone Lanza, director of the Lamb of God Maternity Home for women in crisis pregnancies, said it isn’t enough to tell a frightened pregnant woman not to have an abortion, but that the pro-life community must provide “real options,” including that of open adoption.
The life-affirming alternative of open adoption, in which parents can select their child’s adoptive parents and continue to be actively involved in their child’s life, was among the topics presented. Some speakers introduced birth parents who shared their positive experiences with the process.
Michaelene Fredenburg, president and CEO of Life Perspectives, shared her personal abortion story.
“It was not an easy decision, but it was one that I felt would allow me to go back to my life the way that it was before,” Fredenburg said. But “I wasn’t able to do that.”
The guilt and grief she experienced as a result of her abortion was “unbearable,” she said. When she finally worked up the courage to share her secret with a friend, she was relieved to be met with compassion and not judgment. Her friend encouraged her to seek additional support in the pro-life community.
“I want to thank you for embracing me when I felt that there was no hope for it to ever get better,” she told the pro-life advocates gathered around the stage, “and for helping not only me to get better, to thrive and to flourish, but for helping so many others.”
Pastor Jake McDonnell, lead pastor of Tribe Church in City Heights, recounted how his own parents had chosen life, despite doctors’ warnings that he would be born with myriad health problems.
He challenged those who would argue that supporters of abortion rights are “pro-women.”
“How could you call for the abandonment of our youngest women in the womb and be ‘pro-women’?” he said. “How can hurting and killing our daughters be ‘pro-women’? Friends, it just doesn’t make sense.”
At the root of the abortion issue, he said, is the fact that society fails to understand what love is: “the desire for the best good of another person, even at your own expense.”
Many supporters of legal abortion also assert that the pro-life community doesn’t care about babies after they are born, Pastor McDonnell said. But as proof that this is simply not true, he noted the many exhibitor booths, which were “full of people who love from conception to death.”
As one of the event’s final speakers, Bishop Robert W. McElroy noted how technological innovations like sonograms have helped young couples to recognize the humanity of the unborn child.
Referencing the Santo Niño de Cebú, a Filipino devotion to the Christ Child, Bishop McElroy said the image of Jesus as a baby should shape our view of unborn life.
“Our faith as Christians remains rooted in the image of Jesus Christ … who comes as a vulnerable, innocent child,” he said. “And if Jesus came to us in this way, how can we not be committed to protecting unborn children in our midst?”
Walk for Life Coordinator Evangely Aliangan Ward described herself as “physically exhausted” by the end of this year’s walk, which represented the culmination of an entire year of planning. But she added that she also felt spiritually “re-energized” by the speakers’ words and by the presence of the many exhibitors and walk participants.
“I think the joy and the excitement at this event is catchy,” said Kent Peters, director of the diocesan Office for Social Ministry. “People see it and feel it, and my hope is that all throughout the year they are more committed to serving human life because they had this mountaintop experience.”