More than 30,000 pro-lifers flooded San Francisco's waterfront Saturday, capping a week of anti-abortion demonstrations coinciding with the 36th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling.
The 5th Annual Walk for Life West Coast was also held just one day after President Barack Obama reversed the Bush administration's ban on federal funding of international groups that perform abortions or provide abortion information.
"Women deserve better. Men deserve better. We all deserve better than abortion," Feminist for Life speaker Karen Shablin, a former member of the National Abortion Rights Action League, said Saturday, according to Walk for Life organizers.
For the past five years, the Walk for Life West Coast has been trying to reach out to women who have been affected by abortion and to show support for them and for women in crisis pregnancies – an aim slightly different from that of the much larger rally on the East Coast which drew up to 250,000 in Washington Thursday and raises awareness from a political standpoint.
This year's rally in San Francisco took on a more political tone, however, as it was held just four days after the inauguration of President Obama, who many pro-life conservatives believe is on track to becoming the most pro-abortion president in the history of the nation.
"President Obama is the fulfillment of what the abortion industry always wanted and that was a black face to validate abortion," said the Rev. Clenard Childress, a Baptist pastor and founder of BlackGenocide.org who has spoken at the Walk since its inception in 2005.
As Feminist for Life's Shablin, an African American, pointed out during Saturday's rally, 37 percent of abortions are performed on black women – who make up only 13 percent of the population.
Furthermore, according to a September 2008 report by the Guttmacher Institute that documented U.S. abortion trends over the past 30 years, while the rate of abortion in the United States is at its lowest level since 1974, large disparities persist, masked by the overall trend.
"[A]bortions are becoming more concentrated among women of color and low-income women," noted Sharon Camp, Guttmacher Institute president and CEO, in the organization's report. According to the institute, Hispanic and black women obtain abortions at rates three and five times higher, respectively, than non-Hispanic white women.
Some within the pro-life community have gone as far as accusing Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortions in America, of being "racist," noting that eighty percent of its facilities are in minority neighborhoods.
While many are hesitant to embrace this view, most agree that policymakers at the state and federal levels should be asking themselves what can be done to help poor women and women of color prevent unintended pregnancies and achieve better health outcomes more generally.
Furthermore, while 61 percent of California voters supported Obama in his quest for the White House, organizers of fifth annual walk in San Francisco say his presidential victory does not mean Americans agree with Obama's policies on abortion.
"Americans voted for our new president because they do care about justice; they wanted to shut the door permanently on the prejudice and injustice that is a blemish on our history," said Walk for Life co-chair Dolores Meehan ahead of the annual event.
"We hope President-elect Obama will bring the concern for Americans' well-being that he is showing in tackling the economy to bring justice to women in crisis pregnancies and to the unborn – the most vulnerable of all."
According to many pro-life groups, however, Obama's reversal of the Mexico City policy on Friday marked the beginning of an "assault on life" and was "merely the precursor of many battles to come."
The policy, reinstated by Bush in 2001, had banned U.S. taxpayer money, usually in the form of Agency for International Development funds, from going to international family planning groups that either offer abortions or provide information, counseling or referrals about abortion as a family planning method.
"Given Obama's abysmal record on life issues and the promises he made to radical pro-abortion organizations, his actions today confirm what we have been saying for over a year... Barack Obama will be the most pro-abortion president in the history of our nation," said Susan Armacost, legislative director of Wisconsin Right to Life, in a statement Friday.
During a gathering last year for Planned Parenthood, Obama declared that the first thing he would do as president would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which would abolish all restrictions and limitations on women in the United States to have an abortion prior to fetal viability, whether at the state or federal level, or after the point of viability when the life of the mother is endangered.
Obama has also been known for his opposition to the Supreme Court ruling to uphold the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act and his votes against legislative efforts in the Illinois Senate for three consecutive years (2001-2003) to give legal protections to a baby born alive during an attempted abortion procedure.
Despite concerns, much of the Christian community has been supportive of Obama, encouraging and calling for prayers for him since his historic victory last November. Christian leaders including the Rev. Rick Warren and the Rev. Franklin Graham have been among the many conservatives who have publicly expressed their desire to see Obama's heart changed when it comes to the issue of abortion.