Hundreds of people descended on downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, Jan. 21, for the ninth annual OneLife L.A. march and rally, an event billed by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles as a celebration of the beauty and dignity of every human life — from conception to natural death.
The theme was “Our Mission is Love” and the event was meant to highlight the work of the anti-abortion movement since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision last summer.
“We all want to live in a society where human life is cherished and welcome, where everyone can live with dignity from conception to natural death,” said Brenda Noriega, young adult programs coordinator at the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino, who organized the park program. “This is a spiritual movement, a movement of the hearts and minds and souls. The movement for life is the movement for love.”
OneLife L.A. — which began at 11 a.m. at the La Placita Olvera Kiosk, with Archbishop José H. Gomez among the speakers giving welcoming remarks — came a day before the annual women’s march, which will advocate for reproductive and other rights.
Sunday, Jan. 22, is also the 50th anniversary of the now-defunct Roe v. Wade ruling, which guaranteed a constitutional right to an abortion.
“All lives are precious,” said OneLife participant Gisselle Cardenas, “and we have to march for them and be their voice.”
“A Walk for Life” to Los Angeles State Historic Park began at 12:30 p.m. The park then hosted a program of speakers and performers.
About 1,200 people participated in the march, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
The marchers carried banners and signs that read, “End abortion now,” “Your Mom chose life” and “Pray to end abortion.” Many wore T-shoots bearing anti-abortion slogans. One woman painted tiny feet on her cheek.
“I think it’s an awesome way to support life because that’s one thing Jesus always tells us, to always have life,” said Los Angeles resident Elizabeth Campos. “He came to this world to give us life in abundance and we are nobody to take life away, especially from an innocent child whose not even born yet.”
The generations-spanning debate over abortion rights has largely been divided between those who say life begins at conception and those who argue women should be able to make their own decisions about their bodies. The arguments can also have theological and scientific overtones, with those arguing life begins at conception often falling into the former — including many at the OneLife event — while those who favor abortion rights say life begins at viability.
For years, anti-abortion rights advocates sought to chip away at Roe by arguing before courts that the viability threshold should be reduced.
But then, last summer, this iteration of the Supreme Court, with a conservative majority, overturned Roe, nixing the constitutional right to abortions and letting the states decide whether to allow women to terminate pregnancies. Multiple states quickly enacted laws that restricted or outright banned abortion.
California voters took a different tack during the Nov. 8 election, approving Proposition 1, which enshrined abortion rights into the state constitution.
Still, the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe was seen by religious conservatives and anti-abortion rights advocates, including many Catholics, as a seminal achievement after decades of political organizing.
Saturday’s OneLife event, meanwhile, was celebratory.
“We’re here to shower LA with love,” said Gina Vides, with the Archdiocese of LA, who helped organized OneLife L.A., and “to celebrate the beauty of natural life from conception to death.”
OneLife L.A. was set to conclude with Gomez celebrating a “Requiem for the Unborn” Mass at 5 p.m. at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
“OneLife LA is not a single-day event, but a movement that is meant to be lived throughout the year,” said Michael P. Donaldson, senior director of the archdiocese’s Office of Life, Justice and Peace. “This year’s theme, ‘Our Mission is Love,’ speaks to our calling to honor the dignity of all humanity and to recognize that each of us are made in the image and likeness of God.”
Staff photographer Keith Birmingham, staff writer Chris Haire and City News Service contributed to this report.