SAN FRANCISCO — Tens of thousands of people walked down Market Street in San Francisco, chanting, "We are the pro-life generation" in the 11th annual Walk for Life West Coast, the largest pro-life demonstration not only on the West Coast but in the western United States.

Second only in size to the March for Life in Washington, the Jan. 24 pro-life rally at Civic Center and 1.8-mile walk down Market Street to Justin Herman Plaza drew more than 50,000 people and slowed traffic throughout the downtown area for several hours, meriting traffic alerts on local radio stations.

"There is a war on women, but we are not declaring war, we have come to set women free!" said Walk for Life rally speaker Joy Pinto.

"The civil rights movement of this present age is the pro-life movement and we are nearing our victory and we cannot compromise," said another speaker, the Rev. Clenard Childress Jr., founder of and a Baptist minister in Montclair, New Jersey.

The Walk for Life is held on the Saturday closest to the anniversary of the Jan. 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

Many began the day at St. Mary's Cathedral for the 9:30 a.m. Walk for Life Mass where San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone told the standing-room-only crowd of nearly 5,000: " Our goal is not a legal one nor is it a political one. Our goal is a spiritual one: to build a culture of life."

"My young people, you are the pro-life generation," Archbishop Cordileone said, noting that once again a majority of those present were young, adding, "Let us be clear. Our ideology is pro-life and pro-woman. The two go together."

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, told the tens of thousands gathered at the Civic Center, "Your presence here at the Walk for Life West Coast is a very powerful sign of your faith."

"It is possible the only one without freedom of speech is the unborn," Archbishop Vigano said, saying that under Roe those in the womb "have no right to see the light."

Archbishop Vigano read "warm greetings and closeness in prayer" from Pope Francis to the crowd at Civic Center. The Vatican message of support concluded: "For truly as the theme of this year's walk makes clear, life is the choice and the protection of this fundamental human right together with the firm rejection of all violations of human dignity are essential conditions of the building of a just and inclusive society."

"We come because we want to end abortion and we think abortion is a tragedy that affects everyone," said Margaret Koehler, a mechanical engineering major, who spoke for the 20 Stanford University pro-Life students at Civic Center.

"And we think by demonstrating today we can help to open people's hearts and minds to stop abortion," she told Catholic San Francisco, the archdiocesan newspaper.

In addition to Childress and Pinto, speakers included Julia Holcomb, who told the story of her abortion during a relationship she had as a teenager with Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler, and Rebekah Buell, who shared how a new technique allowed her to save her unborn baby even after taking the first RU-486 pill.

The RU-486 chemical abortion procedure is a two-day regimen used to terminate early pregnancies by blocking the hormone progesterone needed to sustain a pregnancy. A recently developed medical protocol has been able to save more than half of babies whose mothers had been administered the first pill used in the regimen and received the reversal therapy.

Pinto and her husband, Jim, are hosts of Eternal Word Television Network shows and work with Her Choice Birmingham Women's Center in Alabama.

Among those rallying for life were 60 students from Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, in the Cheyenne Diocese, who were clad in blue shirts emblazoned with a cowboy boot and the motto "Cowboys for Life"; 120 students from Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California; thousands of high school students from throughout Northern California; and members of numerous Bay Area and California Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and other denominations.

The Walk for Life West Coast was founded in 2005 by a group of Bay Area residents with the mission of changing the perception that abortion is the answer.