By Ken Stone
Joyce Mendez held a guitar and the attention of a Balboa Park audience Saturday.
“We can rock out,” Mendez shouted. “Because this is a holy moment.”
Then Emmaus Blvd. — her six-member band of youth ministers — dove into a hard-driving song, with Mendez making periodic Mick Jagger hops into the air.
Starting with speeches and entertainment — including a rapping youth pastor — the sixth annual San Diego Walk for Life was a study in contrasts. It wasn’t your father’s anti-abortion march.
Its theme echoed the much larger Women’s March taking place at the same time only two miles away.
“Our message is that to be pro-life is to be pro-woman,” said Evangely Aliangan-Ward of Pacific Beach, in her second year as Walk for Life coordinator. “We’re defending women.”
Forty-five years after Roe v. Wade gave American women the right to abortion — and birthed the first March for Life — San Diego’s event has become multifaceted.
The Most Rev. John Dolan, auxiliary bishop of the San Diego Roman Catholic diocese, spoke to a crowd full of families and ethnicities.
Later, he weighed a question: What did he think about a conflicted America on the first anniversary of a “tough” talking president seen as no friend to immigrants?
“In many ways, that’s why I’m here,” Dolan told Times of San Diego. “This whole March for Life encompasses everything, not just … the unborn, but also DACA.”
He said everyone has value or purpose — “whether they’re walking or in the womb, whether they are immigrants or migrants or deported.”
Amid a Washington budget stalemate over “Dreamers” that led early Saturday to a partial government shutdown, Dolan said people shouldn’t “live in this exclusive false reality that somehow only those who are privileged, only those who can live in first-world countries … can belong on this planet.”
But Dolan won’t criticize specific people, saying it leads to ad hominem arguments.
“Sometimes politicians have to do their part to limit their scope of who has value or not — which is a sad reality,” Dolan said. “I think people of faith try to broaden that.”
If Donald Trump — who addressed Friday’s March for Life in Washington — is part of that sad reality, Dolan holds out hope.
“If they’re speaking on behalf of all life, and they’re honest about it, then that’s going to be a good thing,” Dolan said.
But “when we’re rather exclusive, when we seem to limit our scope on what is valuable in this world, then we’re going to have some trouble with that.”
A contrasting view came from Victor Resendez of Chula Vista, taking part in his fifth San Diego Walk for Life (missing only last year’s event, when it poured).
“Pro-life is a totally different issue than DACA,” said Resendez, 79, calling the effort to stave off deportation for 800,000 young people “a political situation that was put through by the Democrats. The purpose of it is votes.”
Resendez is open to immigration, though.
“Everybody has a right to come to this country as an immigrant,” said the St. Joseph Cathedral attender downtown, but “there’s a legal way, and there’s an illegal way.”
He said that if he had come the legal route, he’d be “miffed if these guys got in front of me. It’s not the child’s fault.”He asked: “Who’s at fault? The parents, right? Send them back. If the kids want to follow the parents, fine. If they want to stay here, fine.”
Resendez said he and his wife couldn’t have children — they adopted three instead.
“So when they say: Who’s going to take care of these children if they’re not aborted? There will be people like me,” he said. “We don’t talk about that, because that’s not what they want to hear. What they want to hear is how do we afford children?”
Before a couple thousand people began a slow 50-minute loop of western Balboa Park — some repeating the Rosary and others saying the Lord’s Prayer — families with small children were sent into the crowd.
Vinny and Andrea Verona of Mission Valley held their 13-month-old daughter, Olivia, who helped clutch a pail for donations. (The money went to defray the $30,000 expense of the event, said organizer Aliangan-Ward.)
Among Saturday’s speakers was a woman who shared her abortion story and a man who said he was saved from abortion.
Jake McDonnell, lead pastor at Tribe Church in City Heights, took the stage and asked for a ball cap. Then he told his story as a rap:
Cuz see the doc told mom I wouldn’t have a heartbeat. br>
But Isaiah 54 said no weapon can harm me. br>
Instead of born dead, disfigured and gnarly, br>
I busted out the womb with the angel army.
McDonnell roused the crowd with a Roe v. Wade reference:
So pass the mike to me, I’ll speak colorfully. br>
But I think black and white, like piano keys, br>
It’s for the least of these that I will not betray. br>
I’d rather wade in the water than row the wrong way.
(He repeated the last line twice, winning more cheers.)
Bishop Dolan — who ended his stage appearance with his typical humor: “Go in pieces” — didn’t see the annual event’s goal as merely reversing Roe at the Supreme Court.
“Our perspective is that life begins from the moment of conception,” Dolan said. “It goes beyond flipping Roe v. Wade because even should that be flipped, there are a whole host of questions that come after that.”
Among them: What happens to a woman who has an abortion illegally, or the doctor who performs it, “and what’s the penalty phase?”
With or without legal abortion, Dolan said, “I think there will still be that tension. The tension is really because, I believe, people are not educated to know the … purpose of human beings.”
>> Subscribe to Times of San Diego’s free daily email newsletter! Click hereFollow Us: