SAN DIEGO – Bishop Robert McElroy said the nation “stands on the precipice of seeing Roe v. Wade effectively overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.” He cautioned, however, that pro-life activists will need to re-double their efforts to bring legal protections for the unborn in California.
The bishop led the annual San Diego Walk for Life on Jan. 15 at Waterfront Park, under an intermittent, cold drizzle. An estimated 2,500 people turned out for the walk, which circled the heavily transited streets around the County Administration Building.
Over the walk’s ten-year history, organizers have coped with rain and last year with Covid-19 restrictions, which led to its suspension in favor of a car caravan. They logged a milestone at this year’s event: a tsunami warning, issued for the coast minutes before it was to begin at 8:30 a.m., following the powerful eruption of an underground volcano in the Pacific.
All of that did not dampen the spirit of the participants, which included families with small children, adolescents and young people. They turned out in their winter jackets, raincoats and boots and held umbrellas, many seemingly reconnecting with friends they had not seen in a while.
They visited the dozens of exhibitors, which ranged from pregnancy resource centers to family clinics to church communities. The walk is an ecumenical event, with Christian and Orthodox pastors and their flocks in attendance.
The participants also heard from several speakers, including Shawn Carney, the co-founder of the international movement 40 Days for Life.
The walk was Bishop McElroy’s first public appearance since having open-heart surgery in November. Standing under a canopy, he addressed the crowd for a few minutes, first in English then in Spanish, just before the walk began.
“This is a historic moment for our nation and in the history of the pro-life movement because we stand on the precipice of seeing Roe v. Wade probably, effectively overturned by the Supreme Court,” he began, as applause erupted around him.
He referred to the landmark case that established a woman’s legal right to an abortion. The court issued its ruling on Jan. 22, 1973, a date used by pro-life activists ever since to advocate against it, including with walk events across the nation, including in San Diego.
“It is a great moment of hope and it is a moment to give thanks to God and all of those who have worked this past half-century to bring this about,” the bishop said.
He recalled that he was in college when the Supreme Court issued its decision.
“I remember being tremendously saddened by it. And wondered: Would we ever see a day when the rights of the unborn were affirmed by the court again?
“I am confident that we are coming close to that day.”
When the court overturns the decision, he predicted that many states will move legislatively to protect the unborn, but not in California.
“Thus, this is a moment not to downsize our efforts but to re-double them,” he said, to applause.
He said that “we have to convince the people in California — and I believe we have the capacity to do that over time — that the unborn child in the womb is precious and that as we know, God is the author of all life, and we’re merely stewards of life in this earth.”
He urged the crowd members to continue the struggle to educate and to convert minds and hearts, to point to the unborn child and help others see the preciousness of that life.
He noted that in an ultrasound, parents see their child, and know that it’s a human life.
“We need to bring that home, that sense, and the implications for it, in terms of how our laws can protect the unborn.”
Moments after he finished, the participants gathered on the corner of Grape Street and Harbor Drive and began the three-quarter-mile walk around the County Administration Building. They waved blue flags and signs at the passing cars with messages in English and Spanish such as “Love Life, Choose Life,” “Pray to End Abortion,” and “Life Begins at Conception.”
Auxiliary Bishops John Dolan and Ramón Bejarano were on hand, along with pastors, seminarians and groups from parishes. After the walk, Auxiliary Bishop Bejarano joined a small circle of participants at the park and they prayed the rosary.