Bishop McElroy at 2022 Walk for Life: Roe Close to End

With Roe v. Wade seen on its deathbed, abortion foes were in a jubilant mood Saturday at the 10th annual Walk for Life downtown. The spiritual leader of San Diego Roman Catholics even suggested doubling down on getting California to ban the procedure.

Bishop Robert McElroy, in his first public talk since Nov. 22 heart surgery, addressed a crowd of several hundred at a drizzly Waterfront Park. (Perhaps 1,000 took part in the march itself.)

“Many states will see tremendous progress legislatively rather soon,” he said of the “historic” prospect that the U.S. Supreme Court will effectively overturn its 1973 decision legalizing abortion, allowing state “trigger laws” to take effect.

“This is a moment not to cease or downsize our efforts but to redouble them here in California,” said McElroy, mindful of its pro-choice majority Legislature.

The 67-year-old cleric added: “It’s going to be a very hard road [in California], but at the same time for our country this is a really wonderful moment.”

Earlier, Texan Shawn Carney excited the sign-carrying audience ringed by nearly 50 booths promoting crisis pregnancy counseling, adoption services, Catholic therapists and the like.

Carney, an author and co-founder and CEO of 40 Days for Life, said abortion was ending in America even without court rulings.

“Over the last 25 years, half of all the abortion facilities in America have closed,” he said. “That’s just a fact. And during that time…. the number of pregnancy resource centers has tripled.”

In a separate interview, he likened the Roe decision to one in 1857, when justices said an African-American could never be a U.S. citizen.

“In 1973, the Supreme Court, once again, dehumanized a segment of our population,” said Carney, 39. “And this time, it wasn’t because of the color of their skin, like they did with Dred Scott. This time it was because of the size and location of those Americans. And so our Supreme Court changed what it meant to be an American. The unborn were now property.”

He added: “This is what happens when we dehumanize a group of our population. What if we start paying the slaves?  And they live on our property and they really like it? Once you, say, play God or dictate who gets to live and who doesn’t, who gets certain rights and who doesn’t, it’s Pandora’s box. Now you’re just selecting which babies we abort.” 

Carney said 2,400 abortions a day on average are performed in the United States. (Other sources put the figure closer to 1,700).

He said the pro-life movement has grown, and gotten younger and smarter — and is led by women who have had an abortion, “a movement of converts. And the conversion gate swings in [only] one direction.”

After his talk — and before a Knights of Columbus-led walk around the County Administration Building — Carney parried questions from Times of San Diego.

He again cited slavery.

Asked what he’d say to the majority of people who in polls suggest abortion should be safe and legal, Carney replied:

“Do you know how many Christians — supposedly good, decent people — in the South thought that slavery was a blessing from God? Should we listen to those people — because they’re in the majority?”

He said the Supreme Court’s “greatest victories” have been correcting errors such as Dred Scott.

“We didn’t vote on slavery. We didn’t vote on abortion,” he said. “Those were mandated by all white-male Supreme Courts. When everybody believes something, that doesn’t make it legal. And now, more people are pro-life than ever.”

Carney was less certain about whether states would make exceptions for rape and incest in their abortion bans. 

“Some states will do everything (on restrictions),” he said, later adding: “We don’t punish people in our country for the crimes of their parents.”

Should women who have abortions face legal peril?

At first he suggested only abortion providers would be criminally liable, even for prescribing an abortion pill. But then he said: “At a certain point, we would [see such laws holding pregnant women accountable]. … If you have slaves 10 years after the slaves were freed, I think we should prosecute those people.”

Bishop McElroy, in a brief chat with Times of San Diego, was asked whether any exceptions should be made to abortion restrictions.

He replied: “I’m very pleased that we’re at a moment when it seems probable that the Supreme Court will effectively overturn Roe v. Wade and would allow the states much more latitude in legally protecting the rights of the unborn, and one of the elements of this is there will be a lot of states who can make a lot of progress quickly. California’s not one of them. And thus we’re going to have to redouble our efforts now here in California to try to find ways to move forward and that means to convince people on the issue of abortion to move forward in erecting laws here that will protect the lives of the unborn.”

In brief remarks on a tarp-covered stage, McElroy likened California to Moses, who made a 40-year desert trek to just outside the land of Canaan.

“In California, we’re not going to be able to enter into the Promised Land of true legal protections for the unborn right away,” he said at the event live-streamed on Facebook by Hombre Nuevo Radio. “We must continue to struggle. We must continue to educate and convert minds and hearts to point to the unborn child and see the preciousness of that life.”

He was grateful for his own life as well, reporting on his recovery from open-heart surgery.

“Coming along quite well,” he told a reporter. “No complications and almost no pain since I got out of the hospital. I thank people for all their prayers because I think that’s what’s responsible for it.”

He said he’d celebrate his first public Mass in months later Saturday at the Santo Niño celebration at St. Michael Catholic Church in Paradise Hills.