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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

West Coast recap: “Just your existence makes a difference."

Last Saturday fellow SPL supporters and I marched in the West Coast Walk for Life through downtown San Francisco. To be blunt, I was not sure I was looking forward to it. I’ve done many SF Walks over the years, but this is the first year I was going to attempt one while 8 months pregnant. The very idea of the Walk seemed kind of exhausting. On the other hand, the Walk is a chance to see friends of mine in person who I usually only get to talk to online, so there was that to look forward to. I decided to just try to do the whole Walk, and if it got too difficult I could always head home early.

SPL supporters gathered at our banner in front of the Asian Art Museum as the San Francisco rally began. We had a few people stop and tell us they like the banner, and we even had a few people tell us they liked SPL’s speech last year! I was impressed and happy they still remembered.

Hanging out with pro-life people and their pro-life dogs before the Walk started.
Once the rally started wrapping up we easily slipped into the embarking crowd near the front of what always ends up being a massively long column of people trailing down Market Street in San Francisco. Most years I like to dart in and out of the crowd getting as many pictures of the different signs as possible. No darting for me this year. Luckily pro-life atheist and amateur photographer Ellen took on the role enthusiastically. I wish I had pictures of her taking pictures—she even climbed up on subway walls and other places to get better vantage points.

Ellen captures the crowd.
Meanwhile I walked alongside our banner and talked with Josh Brahm about the Walk, the effects of these kinds of pro-life events on people, and which signs we liked (or didn’t). With so many people milling down the street, the Walk moved at a place slow enough that I was able to keep up for the duration, which is nice.

Hanging out with Josh. :)
I was surprised at how few counter-protesters we saw. There were two or three here or there along the route, but most years there’s eventually a concentrated crowd of several dozen, usually with bullhorns and chants and plenty of signs that make for interesting photos. This year we saw none of that. When we got to the very end of the route there was a slightly larger group, but they seemed small compared to the thousands of pro-lifers overflowing from the street to the surrounding park and blocks around it. I think the counter-protesters’ message was largely missed by most on our side because of that. Not sure why they took that tactic this year. I think the only other year I’ve seen so few counter-protesters at the Walk was a year it was raining. Not sure what to make of that.

A handful of counter-protesters.
I found out later that some of the counter-protesters who were around had tried to physically block the Walk, but we never knew about it at the time. Apparently the police (and many student groups led by SFLA) made short work of those efforts (fast forward to about 3m50s to see the police stop people from blocking the street)—the counter-protesters didn’t even slow the column down enough for us to notice a pause. Ha.

After the Walk, several of the SPL supporters met up for pizza and card games and general fun, and it was great to get to hang out with everyone. I can only imagine what my life would be like if all my online friends lived in the same area. Ah well.

The next day was the West Coast SFLA conference. Ellen and I, along with pro-life atheist and SPLer Terrisa, arrived around 7:30am and set up SPL’s table. We were right between the tables for Life Matters Journal and Equal Rights Institute (two pro-life groups I consider good friends of SPL).

SPL's table!

We spent the day encouraging student groups to take one of our outreach packets, which contain brochures about why the pro-life positions is of interest to non-Christians and copies of our 10 Ways to Be Inclusive blog post.

We had a lot of great conversations with people interested in SPL. So many people tell us how happy or relieved they are to see secularists join the fold and how frustrated they get when people dismiss their views because of religion. Several people told us they think SPL and groups like ours are the key to the future of the movement! And one gentleman in particular told me that, in his conversations about abortion, just being able to point to SPL’s existence has helped make people more open to what he’s saying. It is so encouraging to hear how SPL is helping the pro-life movement in little ways we never even know about!

During the day we also got to talk with people who are leaders in their own pro-life organizations. Of course we talked a lot with our tabling neighbors, Life Matters Journal and Equal Rights Institute. We also got to chat with leaders from the Walk for Life, Feminists for Life, Priests for Life, And Then There Were None, 40 Days for Life, Students for Life (of course!) and many others. And we talked with a lot of students from different high school and college pro-life groups. Some of the schools that have had SPL for speaking engagements in the last year came over to say hi, and that was really sweet.

Throughout the day I took a few notes on good ideas other groups had for making their tables interesting and engaging (for example, candy doesn’t hurt). I think next year I’d like to have more copies of some of our blog posts printed as leaflets. Which blog posts do you think would be most useful for a student pro-life conference?

Overall it was a busy and enjoyable weekend. So good to see so many friends, get brainstorming ideas, and remember how many different kinds of people are interested in pro-life work. If you can make it to either a march or a conference (or both) I highly recommend it. Very thought-provoking and encouraging.

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