Obianuju (Uju for short) Ekeocha, is an internationally acclaimed speaker and pro-life strategist who is coming to Columbus October 27th through 29th as part of a Respect Life Month special presentation by Greater Columbus Right to Life, Patrick Madrid and the Lepanto Institute, the Catholic Foundation, and St. Gabriel Radio.
Her talks, which are free and open to the public, will be held at St. Patrick, Columbus, at 6:00 PM on Thursday, October 27th; at St. Matthew, Gahanna, at 7:00 PM on Friday, October 28th; and at St. Michael, Worthington, at 9:00 am on Saturday, October 29th.
Uju is the founder and president of Culture of Life Africa, an initiative dedicated to the promotion and defense of the African values of the sanctity of life, beauty of marriage, blessings of motherhood and the dignity of family life. Culture of Life Africa answers the assaults on these values with African women’s voices, in unity with Christ and His Church and consistent with St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.
Uju has advised African bishops from different countries on women and life issues and co-authored three declarations with African bishops promoting the gospel of life in Africa. Although Uju has been a diligent advocate for life for many years, she has been widely praised in the United States in recent years after standing up against efforts to impose Western values contrary to the dignity of human life on the women and families of Africa. She is perhaps most widely known for her Open Letter to Melinda Gates, which is featured on the Pontifical Council for the Laity's website, and her response defending a culture of life at a symposium with representatives of the UN on maternal health in Africa.
Uju’s love of and respect for life stems not only from her African Culture and her Catholic faith, but also her training as a scientist. Uju is a specialist biomedical scientist in Hematology, working at a hospital in the United Kingdom. Prior her current position, she was a Medical Laboratory Scientist at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital. She holds a Master’s degree in biomedical science from the University of East London and a Bachelor’s degree in microbiology from the University of Nigeria. Uju was born in southeast Nigeria, the youngest of six children, and has resided in the U.K. since 2006.
Additional information on Uju, Culture of Life Africa, and her public appearances, as well as bulletin announcements and fliers can be found at www.gcrtl.org/meet-uju.
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To support the work of Greater Columbus Right to Life or to help sponsor Uju's visit to Columbus, consider making a tax-deductible gift to Greater Columbus Right to Life today.
Breaking: Columbus Abortion Provider Owes an estimated $780,000 to city, state, and federal government agencies as a result of unpaid taxes.
Background: A year ago, Greater Columbus Right to Life learned that the City of Columbus had filed a lawsuit against the owner/operator of the Founder’s abortion clinic for unpaid taxes on what we estimate to be more than $1.2 million dollars in income. The back taxes, fines, and penalties on the amount owed were approximately $50,000. In January of 2016, the court approved a plan for the clinic to pay back part of that amount in monthly installments of $800.
A few days ago, Greater Columbus Right to Life learned that the clinic management and operator also owed the State of Ohio about $110,000, representing $97,000 in Ohio withholding taxes and $13,000 in Ohio’s Commercial Activities Tax. We were tipped off to the clinic being in serious financial difficulty after seeing that the clinic was using crowdfunding to pay for its application to join the National Abortion Federation.
Mammoth Federal Tax Lien:
After learning that the clinic owes about $160,000 to the city and the state in taxes and fees, we decided to dig a little further. What we learned is shocking. The IRS has filed a lien against the clinic’s management for nearly $610,000.
This should make you ask three questions, 1: How much do you need to profit off of the intentional destruction of unborn children in order to owe more than three quarters of a million dollars to tax agencies? 2: How is a business with such a record permitted to keep operating? 3: When is this clinic going to close?
If you wonder why we care about the tax status of an abortion clinic, it is because we remember the lessons of history: Al Capone wasn’t brought down for the murders he committed or his role in the Valentines Massacre, but for tax evasion.
Every day, the abortion industry inculcates our communities and culture with the idea that abortion is a safe and legal practice and that it should be affordable and subsidized by our tax dollars. But as we have shown again and again, abortion is not safe. The industry is filled with criminal behavior and illegal acts. This is another of them.
Join Us to Keep It Going:
It is undeniable that our work to bring the light of prayer and truth to the abortion clinic is having an effect. Our team has now built two shifts of prayer partners, focusing on making sure that a volunteer is there for each woman entering or leaving the abortion clinic. We are inviting additional volunteers to join our prayer team.
The cracks are starting to show and grow, and we are going to keep doing this work until either abortion is no more or we do not have the funds to go on. Unlike Founder's, we do not have a million dollars in gross receipts coming in, and we pay all of the taxes, licenses, and fees that we are required to by local, state, and federal law. This has been a difficult year for us, financially. If you have not yet supported our work, can you consider making a donation today? You can do so on our secure, online portal, by sending a check in the mail (665 E Dublin Granville Rd, St 115, Columbus OH 43229), or by joining or donating to our Prayer-a-Thon.
How do you know when an abortion clinic is sinking quickly? Is it:
If you guessed “6) All of the above,” you would be correct.
Two years ago, we learned that one of the abortion providers at Founder’s and Capital Care was indicted on federal child pornography charges. One year ago, we learned that the City of Columbus was suing them for owing back taxes. Around that same time, an employee and abortion supporter started the “Pro Choice Cats” campaign to purchase billboard advertising for the clinic. Four months ago, City Council members attempted to enact legislation that would restrict our right to pray and protest within fifteen feet of the clinic property line (the legislation was amended and the objectionable language removed). Three days ago, we learned that a supporter of the Toledo office (Capital Care Network) was resorting to crowdfunding in order for the clinic to raise the $250 fee to apply to the National Abortion Federation and the $750 NAF site visit fee. Today, we learned that the State of Ohio has also filed at least three tax liens against the owner/manager of Founder’s and Capital Care Network. One of the liens is for $64,688.86 in unpaid withholding tax, one is for $32,666.01 in unpaid withholding tax, and the third is for $13,564.03 in unpaid Commercial Activities Tax (CAT). The judgement lien information does not indicate if the back taxes were owed for one year or several years. However, we do know without a doubt that this represents millions of dollars in gross receipts to the clinic’s owner/manager. How? Because Ohio’s CAT, or commercial activities tax, levied at .26% (that’s 0.0026) on a business’s gross receipts, with the first million exempt (there are exemptions for small businesses and an alternate structure for those businesses with a million dollars or less in receipts each year). With what the clinic owes, it is certain that the business is bringing in more than a million dollars a year.
So the big question is – if the abortion clinic is bringing in more than a million dollars each year and not paying taxes, why on earth does it need to resort to selling tee-shirts to pay for advertising billboards and crowdfunding to pay professional licensing applications?
Earlier this week, a supporter of the Toledo Capital Care (owned/managed by the same entity that owns and manages the Columbus Founder’s facility) started a “YouCaring” crowd-funding campaign. According to YouCaring, its website is a platform to raise money for individuals and nonprofits (not businesses) for humanitarian purposes. It appears as though the YouCaring website has disabled the Capital Care Network fundraiser, probably because funding business licenses for multi-million dollar abortion businesses is not actually considered a humanitarian need. That notwithstanding, the campaign sought to raise $1000 so that the clinic could apply to be a member of the National Abortion Federation. Two of the "benefits" of membership? Discounts on abortion supplies and getting referrals from their abortion hotline.
Don’t get us wrong, abortion is always wrong because it involved the intentional destruction of innocent human life. Abortion providers are not morally better when they have clean offices, refuse to hire pedophiles, or pay their taxes. However, we do believe that abortion, filthy facilities, convicted child sex predators, and tax-cheating seem to go hand-in-hand at an astonishing rate. We suspect that is because, as St. Teresa of Kolkata is often quoted to have said, “If abortion isn’t wrong, then nothing is wrong.”
Perhaps all of the people walking around wearing their "Pro-Choice Cat” tee shirts and (warning, vulgar) stickers should consider for a moment funding Tax-Cheat Terrie’s CAT Tax bill.
Until then, we will continue our work in prayer, education, advocacy, and investigating the truth about abortion.
It is undeniable that our work to bring the light of prayer and truth to the abortion clinic is having an effect. The cracks are starting to show and grow, and we are going to keep doing this work until either abortion is no more or we do not have the funds to go on. Unlike Founder's, we do not have a million dollars in gross receipts coming in, and we pay all of the taxes, licenses, and fees that we are required to by local, state, and federal law. This has been a difficult year for us, financially. If you have not yet supported our work, can you consider making a donation today? You can do so on our secure, online portal, by sending a check in the mail (665 E Dublin Granville Rd, St 115, Columbus OH 43229), or by joining or donating to our Prayer-a-Thon.
Update: It seems that Planned Parenthood has a tax problem, albeit a much lesser one, too.
Each September, the Ohio Department of Health releases the abortion statistics for the preceding year. Today, the 2015 statistics were released.
Statewide, abortions continued to drop, albeit by a smaller margin than in recent years. The total number of abortions performed in 2015 in Ohio was 19765, a reduction of about 250 from the previous year. In 2014 and 2013, abortions dropped by about 2000 each year.
Most counties where abortions are performed reported an increase in the number of abortions performed, with the exception of Cuyahoga County and Summit County. There was also an increase in the number of non-Ohio resident women who had abortions here.
Statewide, the number of abortions performed on white women decreased; the number performed on black women and other minorities did increase. The number of abortions performed in ambulatory surgical centers stayed roughly the same with the number performed in hospitals increasing (from 84 to 114). There was also a new statistic reported for abortions performed outside of a hospital or ambulatory surgical center: 32. Those are most likely attributed to a change in Ohio law in a recent budget bill that altered the requirements for ambulatory surgical centers. GCRTL has frequently pointed out that the language change would likely result in medical abortions being provided outside of surgical facilities.
Here in Central Ohio, we saw the number of abortions performed in Franklin County increase to 4715, an increase of 578 from the 2014 number of 4137. It still represents a significant decline from the 2012 numbers and continues a cycle that we have seen going back to at least 2000 with two years of decline followed by a year of increase.
Within the counties that GCRTL represents, we have seen some hopeful and some concerning statistics. For example, the number of abortions performed on Franklin County residents decreased for the third consecutive year, down to 3,333. While the number of abortions performed on white residents declined by about ten percent, the number of abortions performed on black and other minority women sharply increased by about ten percent (some, but not all of this could be attributed to an increase in the number of women who were determined to be of unknown race).
The number of abortions also declined for women living in Pickaway county. They increased for women living in Morrow, Delaware, Madison, Fairfield, Licking and Union Counties. The increase was the most significant in Union County, where the number of abortions doubled from 27 to 53.
It can be frustrating to see numbers like this despite our best efforts, so I would also like to put things into a bit of perspective. Statistics, by their very nature, are a way of measuring what can be measured. We can gain much insight but limited knowledge by looking at them. For example, we can see the number of women who had an abortion, but not the number who chose life based on the work that was done in the community, the prayers, and the contributions of our sidewalk counselors. We also cannot see the number of women who proceeded with their abortions and then were connected to post-abortion counseling.
On the other hand, I had some expectation that the number of abortions would increase in 2015, and here is why. First and foremost, as I mentioned above, abortions performed in central Ohio have tended to be cyclical in nature - two years in decline and one with an increase, for the past decade and a half. We also saw that both the clinics operating in Columbus in 2015 had an increase in days. For much of 2015, Founder's was open six days a week and had daily clinic escorts- employees and staff whose job was to get women from their cars and into the clinic without talking to GCRTL volunteers. In 2015, the Planned Parenthood on East Main became an abortion-only facility, which also suggested an increase in demand. Our turn-aways were steady for the first six months of the year, and then they slightly declined in the second half.
Here is why we are hopeful: In 2016, Founder's clinic has significantly reduced its hours and operating days. They are currently only open three days a week, and those days seem to be slower than they have been in the past. However, with a schedule that changes every single week, it has become more difficult to get volunteers who can consistently cover our days and times needed.
How you can help:
We know that when we have consistent prayer partners and sidewalk counselors, women choose life in greater numbers. We are able to get them from the clinic and to a life-affirming pregnancy help center. Today was the first day in a very long time that we were not able to have a volunteer at the clinic - most of those with weekday availability were attending the funeral of a local pro-life stalwart whose son is active with us today. I received a phone call that an ambulance was at the clinic. We are in the process of requesting the records, but a witness who contacted our office let us know that it appeared that a woman had collapsed outside of the clinic or possibly been pushed out of a car. We need to be there, every time and every day. If you can spare just two hours once a month, you could made the difference in the life of a woman and her unborn child. Join us at: www.gcrtl.org/pray.
We also need people who can support our work financially. This has been a tough year, and our time and resources have been stretched more thin than ever. It takes time and money to organize volunteers, track down information and public records, analyze data, identify life-saving resources for women who are hungry, homeless, abused, or addicted, and fight city hall's efforts to stop our work. This is a crucial part of the work that we do. For example, it was GCRTL who published information that the local abortion clinic owner owed back taxes on more than 1.2 million in income. We are the "someone" who follows up when the abortion clinic violates the law by not reporting abortion complications and deaths. Did you know that in 2014 a Columbus woman died after an abortion performed at Pre-term (a late-term abortion clinic in Cleveland)? And yet, the Ohio Department of Health statistics indicate that there were zero women who died from an abortion complication in 2014. The abortion industry frequently claims that abortion is safer than childbirth based on the complication rate. We know, however, that this is just another lie, because the complications are frequently not reported as complications from an abortion. We took a woman to the hospital after she passed out from hemorrhaging following an incomplete abortion, and she does not seem to have been reported as an abortion complication. Just a few weeks ago, we learned of a woman who was so high that she had to be helped into the clinic, unable to stand on her own. The abortion clinic provided narcan and called an ambulance only after performing the abortion. This was an abortion that she could not have consented to under Ohio law. Following up on this type of information is time consuming. It generally takes our office between three and six months for the Ohio Department of Health to respond to a public records request for inspection information or complication reports (and often we are told that those records are not available).
Yes, this year has been a tough one, but we will get through it and continue doing the work that is truly transforming our community one life at a time, but we need your help if we are going to keep doing it. If you would like to pray with us, you can sign up here. If you can donate to support our work, you can make a secure gift online. If you'd like to do both, I hope you will join us for our upcoming prayer-a-thon.
A few months ago, City Hall attempted to make it a crime in Columbus to annoy an abortion clinic employee, owner, client, or any other person within fifteen feet of the abortion clinic. In our comments to city council, we pointed out that enactment of this legislation would have a chilling effect on the free speech rights of individuals who are at an abortion clinic to prayerfully, peacefully, and respectfully protest abortion.
The proposal's sponsor repeatedly indicated that there is "no other medical procedure that is protested in this way." In some ways, that is true. There is no other medical procedure which intentionally and routinely destroys the life of an innocent human being, and I suspect that if there were another procedure that were to end the life of hundreds of people each year that there would be protests for that procedure, as well. Indeed, Ohio is a state with the death penalty, and each time a prisoner is executed a group forms to protest the execution. Others protest the practice year-round. If Ohio resumes executions in the death penalty, it will be interesting to see if those who parrot the language that "abortion is a legal, medical procedure and it should not be protested," will adopt the argument that "the death penalty is a medical, legal procedure and it should not be protested." I suspect that this will not be the case, even though many parallels in the arguments exist.
Note: I say this not because I am advocating for or opposing the death penalty in this piece; I am just noting the similarities between the arguments. Death penalty opponents routinely argue that the death penalty disproportionately impacts the black community, that it is painful and causes suffering until death, that it is unnecessary in a modern age where we can imprison the offender, that it reflects a community that values death, that it fails to address the underlying dysfunction of society that results in crime, and that even in our culture there is a failure of justice that results in too many executed prisoners who have been found to be innocent. To some degree, each of these arguments are used by the pro-life community, except the last one. There are no unborn children who have been adjudicated guilty of a capital crime by a jury of their peers, and the only due process of law which they receive is Ohio's 24 hour waiting law - something which is vehemently opposed by the abortion community.
Others might argue that this is incongruous, because unlike a prisoner, an unborn child lacks autonomy, the ability to live on its own, or some additional measure that makes it fully human. We disagree with those arguments, but even if we did not - it is clear that even here in our community there is another glaring distinction in how we see life which is dependent upon us. The Franklin County Dog shelter recently announced that it had euthanized some nearly 60 dogs after one was found to have distemper. Animal rights and welfare activists are protesting the effort, broken-hearted pet owners are speaking out against the loss or possible loss of dogs they recently adopted, and various veterinary, welfare, political, and community voices are vociferously speaking out. It has become a national story.
So I am not misunderstood - I am also not trying to take a position on the county human agent's actions, nor am I opposing those who feel a special calling for the protection of animals or the reformation of the justice system.
What I am doing is point out that it would be rare for a local government to target these kinds of peaceful protests by law abiding citizens. It would be very concerning - even to the death penalty advocate or the animal welfare indifferent - if government were to target either of these types of political activity because they were annoying or inconvenient.
City Council, however, did target the pro-life individual when it proposed legislation that would make it illegal to annoy or inconvenience someone outside of an abortion clinic. While we were successful in pushing back that proposed law because thousands in central Ohio stood up for the right to pray outside of an abortion clinic.
We pushed back against the law and it was amended. It will have no impact on our volunteers and others who are involved in peaceful prayer. We won, but at a great cost. It cost us thousands of dollars to mount a protest. There was an undeniable chilling effect on the pro-life community, and many of you have stopped coming out to pray, afraid that you will be targeted regardless of how the statute now reads.
We need you, now more than ever. If you have never ventured out with us, it is time to join our team. If it has been a while since you've been out, we invite you to come back again. We will welcome you back with joyful and grateful arms. If you haven't been able to support our work this year, we would appreciate a donation.
Each week, 110 unborn children die in Columbus by lethal injection or by being rendered limb from limb. You can stop it. Will you? We can all pretend that we care, but we can't pretend to show up.
If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to Greater Columbus Right to Life, you can do so here. You can also connect or reconnect with our prayer team here.
Pro-Life Olympics, Part I
This might just be the most pro-life Olympic games, ever.
These meme has been floating around the internet lately, and it made me laugh – funny because it is true. Doing this work, I sometimes feel like I am changing the world. Other times, I feel useless – as useless as a lifeguard at an Olympic swim meet.
But as backstory after backstory comes out about the Olympics, I realize just how important it is. This Thanks Mom commercial from P&G has become one of my favorite things about the Olympics every year. What the commercial fails to say is "Thanks, Mom, for choosing Life."
A month ago, I had never heard of Simone Biles, but as story after story about this young woman comes out, I am in awe. She is 19 years old and is being called the best gymnast in the world, and possibly the best gymnast in history. This vault of hers was nearly perfect. It was arguably as close to perfect as is possible for humans. She trains six days a week, but on the 7th she rests and goes to church. She talks about finding time to attend Mass even at the Olympics. She is accomplished, energetic, and lovely.
I was drawn in a bit more when I heard about her childhood. It was far from perfect. Apparently, she was born right here in Columbus, Ohio, and at least her father was raised in the housing projects of Cleveland.
Her birth parents were troubled, to put it nicely. Stories refer to instability, alcoholism, and substance abuse. She was placed in foster care for a few years before finally being adopted by her biological grandparents. Her Mom’s tweets have been called the “best parent” to follow on twitter, and they are incredibly sweet. There has been some media fumbling in the process of explaining that her parents are adoptive parents but also happen to be her biological grandparents, particularly when talking about her very early years with her biological mother. It is a good reminder that while adoption is a wonderful option, it can often be a complicated one! The woman who gave birth to her seems to still live here in Columbus. We hope that she is thriving.
Oh, Simone. America is so proud of you. Columbus is so proud of you, even though you have not made this your home for many years. You are so special and amazing. You have been given such a talent and you have worked hard to make the very best of it. You go girl.
But you have also reminded me of why we are not like the lifeguards at the Olympic swim meets. We make a difference, even when we do not see it. Here is why.
I do not know if Simone has ever spoken out against abortion. I don’t know if her mother ever contemplated abortion. I do know that so many in this death-infused culture that we live in would look at the prospects of a girl, and a black girl at that, born into poverty with parents who struggle with substance abuse and see a child who was destined to be placed into the foster care system. Most likely, they would also an "ideal" circumstance to promote abortion as the more loving and compassionate option. We see that story play over and over again, every day that we are at the abortion clinic. Women who are hungry for hope are instead offered an abortion, and many take it in their desperation. This is something that so many do not see about the pro-life voice. We are not there for judgment or condemnation, but because we believe that abortion is wrong. It is evil. It feeds upon the hopelessness of our generation and starves the soul and the conscious.
The world talks about abortion like it is just another choice, a preference. If you are considering desert, do you want strawberry or chocolate ice cream? When you get dressed, do you put on khakis or blue jeans? If you are pregnant, do you get an abortion or give birth?
The prolife movement, the volunteers at GCRTL know that this is not a choice, it is a child. It is a wonderful and precious child, a person whose spirit and accomplishments will never, ever, ever again be repeated in the whole history of the world. Again and again, stories that cover Simone emphasize that she doesn’t think about herself in terms of her life circumstances, her gender, or her ethnicity, but in doing what she loves to do – gymnastics.
Dear mother who is contemplating abortion, please know that no matter how bad your circumstances are, there is always hope for you and for your child. He or she might grow up to be the next Olympic athlete, or the doctor who cures cancer, or an elected official who brings about world peace. Most likely, he or she will be ordinary, but in a way that we are reminded that the ordinary is itself extraordinary. It will most certainly be hard, but there will be great joy, too.
Today, an average of eleven or twelve children will die of abortion right here in Columbus. Each and every one of them is precious. Each and every one of them has the ability to overcome the circumstances to which they were born. Each and every one of them has the ability to become the next Simone Bales. Each and every one of them deserves the right to life. We are going to keep fighting for them. Today, as the USA women’s gymnastics team competes, we will be with so many others cheering them on. Tomorrow, however, we will get back to the work that we have been called to do. I hope you will join us. You can pray with us by signing up at www.gcrtl.org/pray. If you can’t pray with us, please consider making a donation today to help us with our work.
God Bless America. Go team Life and Team USA.
Abortion is the death penalty for unborn children. It requires no conviction and mandated no appeal. Our volunteers show up every day in order to plead for stays of execution, and sometimes they are granted. Those are glorious days.
Today, however, we read that Ohio has effectively ended the death penalty, at least for the time being: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2016/06/26/ohio-yet-to-find-supply-of-lethal-injection-drugs-facing-january-execution-date.html.
Why? Because the combined efforts of medical professionals and the pharmaceutical industry have determined that lethal injection is contrary to the legitimate workings of medicine.
The American Medical Association has weighed in: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/physician-resources/medical-ethics/code-medical-ethics/opinion206.page?
Notably, this strong statement against the death penalty comes just paragraphs after their embrace of abortion: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/physician-resources/medical-ethics/code-medical-ethics/opinion201.page?
The New York Times recently highlighted the efforts of Pfizer to end its drugs from being used, even as components in other medicines or the compounding process, in any form of lethal injection: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/05/14/us/pfizer-execution-drugs-lethal-injection.html. According to a company spokesperson:
“A company in the business of healing people is putting its reputation at risk when it supplies drugs for executions,” Thomas P. DiNapoli, the state comptroller, said in an email. “The company is also risking association with botched executions, which opens it to legal and financial damage.”
Among the drugs that are made by Pfizer is Cytotek, the US brand name for misoprostol, an abortion inducing drug: https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/fda/fdaDrugXsl.cfm?setid=10644068-fa47-4e3b-9e93-f57ebac3dd17.
Why the double standard?
The 5 Most Egregious Things to Happen at City Council Tonight:
Tonight was the "Public Hearing" on 1548-2016. Thanks to everyone who came out. For those who missed it, here were the five most egregious things to happen...
5: Teeny Tiny Room
Seriously, did they look for the smallest room possible? There was room in the hearing, counting standing room, for maybe 60 people.
4: Dozens Locked Out
Because City Council choose such a small location, dozens who wanted to attend were locked out of the building.
3: City Police Officer Lied
Columbus police officer Nicole, who occasionally worked as a private duty police officer at Founder's, told city council members of her experiences with volunteers. One anecdote that she shared was that volunteers would lie to women by telling them that the abortion clinic had employed a known sex offender, when that was not true. Except, it was true. Read all about it here: http://www.gcrtl.org/blog/abortion-provider-indicted-on-child-pornography-charges
Note: updated post includes a link at the bottom of this entry to the full hearing. You can watch Officer Nicole lie about this at the 1:05:27 point.
2: Public Testimony Limited
Although billed as a public hearing which would allow proponents and opponents of the proposal to testify for/against the law in 3-minute, alternating witness statements, City Council filled the time with member statements, a presentation from their attorney, and the statements of one officer mentioned above. In total, only about fifteen minutes of the 5:30-7:00pm hearing were allotted to opponent speakers.
1: It Was All A Farce
It was all a farce anyway, and it was obvious that this was little more than for-show hearing. City Council already showed its hand that it intends to act on this proposal next Monday.
We aren't going to let it happen without trying to stop it, though.
In in less than a week, we have gathered thousands of postcards from opponents of the proposed law, and more than 500 have signed our petition (www.gcrtl.org/city-council). Join us!
Watch the full hearing. To skip to the part where Officer Nicole lies about an abortion doctor being charged as a sex offender, forward to the 1:05:27 mark when Councilwoman Brown asks her about her experiences.
Life is precious - no matter how annoying and inconvenient this truth may be to those in the abortion industry and their friends on Columbus City Council.
Columbus City Councilwoman Elizabeth Brown has recently introduced a change to Columbus’ City Code that would, among other things, make it illegal to be within 15 feet of the property of a “reproductive health center” when your presence there is inconvenient or annoying. The penalty for a violation of this law? Up to one year in jail and a $1000 fine.
True, the proposal contains other prohibitions – for example it is illegal to block access to the clinic, to strike, grab, shove, restrain, etc., someone making their way into the clinic, and to threaten to do any of those things as well. However, each of these is already an illegal act at the local, state, or federal level. For example, blocking access to an abortion clinic, threatening or injuring a patient or employee of a clinic, or vandalizing the structure of an abortion clinic is a violation of the 1994 FACE Act, carrying criminal and civil penalties of tens of thousands of dollars and six months to three years’ incarceration. Assault carries a higher penalty at the state level, and the same penalty city-wide. Vandalism, kidnapping, abduction, and extortion are all also already illegal.
While Councilwoman Brown cites an increase in police calls near “reproductive health centers” in the last year, specifically that 38 police calls were made to their vicinity in 2015, as the justification for her proposal, you will notice that there have not been regular citations and prosecutions of pro-life advocates. In fact, when a woman – who was not reported as having any ties to local pro-life organizations, broke into and vandalized the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic on East Main Street, she was identified, apprehended, and charged within a matter of weeks – illustrating that the existing laws are sufficient to protect against actual crimes.
This law attempts to create a round-about way of stopping the prayerful, peaceful, and effective work of pro-life advocates at abortion clinics. It is worth noting that since the Greater Columbus Right to Life sidewalk counseling program was implemented, abortion rates have dramatically declined in central Ohio. Franklin County abortion rates have dropped by nearly 30% since 2012; Statewide the reduction has been closer to 17%. Our rates have declined not because laws and regulations have forced clinics to close, but because we have been partners in completing the circle of organizations that advocate for the dignity of human life – combining prayer, education, and grassroots work as part of a coalition that includes pregnancy help centers, post-abortion healing programs, and evangelization.
Because our volunteers are not violating any laws and because the US Supreme Court recently dealt a sweeping blow to efforts to create “bubble zones” that deny peaceful citizens the right to pray and protest on public property near abortion clinics, the abortion industry is trying a new route – to write a local statute that prohibits someone from hitting, pushing, shoving, or harassing a patient or an employee. While prohibiting these behaviors appears to be reasonable from a public safety perspective, it becomes unreasonable when looking at the proposed definition of “harass,” which in this case is, “engaging in a course of conduct that is directed at another that would cause a reasonable person to be seriously alarmed, annoyed or inconvenienced and that in fact seriously alarms, annoys or inconveniences another.”
This language is the basis of the entire proposed municipal ordinance, and it is outrageous and unconstitutional on its face. The otherwise reasonable prohibitions against striking, grabbing, shoving, and threatening a patient or an employee of an abortion clinic are already illegal: if there were reason to charge pro-life advocates for violating existing laws that prohibit that behavior, public safety offices would file criminal charges and abortion providers would file civil actions. Because we are not violating the existing laws, they need to create the new crime of annoying or inconveniencing someone within fifteen feet of the property line of the abortion clinic. Such a law is so unpalatable to anyone with regard for our Constitution that it must be packaged with other, seemingly reasonable laws – regardless of their redundancy.
The First Amendment to the US Constitution and Article 1, Sections 3 and 7 of the Ohio Constitution guarantee the basic rights of our citizens – rights to free speech, religious expression, peaceable assembly, and freedoms of conscience. These rights cannot be constrained by such frivolous and changing reasons as to prohibit behavior that may annoy or inconvenience another. Moreover, even if it were acceptable to infringe upon these rights for such arbitrary and insubstantial reasons annoyance and inconvenience, it would be impossible for our volunteers to know what behavior would be acceptable from day to day or personality to personality. It is unenforceable for the same reason. Beyond the insult to the Constitution, public safety forces should use their time to address the serious crimes in our community: substance abuse, theft, assault, human trafficking, and the dozens of other crimes that seriously plague the neighborhoods where abortion clinics are operating. They should not be asked to make citations based on the arbitrary and vague crime of being annoying or inconvenient, and it would take extensive training for them to be appropriate arbiters of such vague and inane language.
In the past 24 hours, hundreds have signed our petition against this proposal, and the momentum is continuing to grow. Under the leadership of Greater Columbus Right to Life and our partner churches and organizations, thousands of people have prayed at a local abortion clinic in the past three years alone. We will not be made into criminals because abortion advocates find opposition to abortion and our very prayers inconvenient and annoying.
Many have been shocked at the idea that city leaders would sponsor or support such a proposal. Words often attributed to Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta come to mind, “If abortion isn’t wrong, then nothing is wrong.” The converse also applies; if the promise of the preamble to the Constitution that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with the Right to Life is not respected, how can such subsequent enumerated rights – speech, association, and religion be respected?
We oppose proposed Columbus City Ordinance 1428-2016 and call on its immediate and permanent rejection. If you would like to join us, visit our website for talking points, grassroots toolkits, and how to involve your church, organization, or small group.
 2303.13 of Columbus City Code. Enacted via ORD 2535-94.
Today I am writing you about an incredibly urgent issue.
Last night, the Columbus City Council heard a municipal ordinance based on the flawed Ohio House Bill 408. While the proposed city ordinance reiterates several existing city, state, and federal laws, the bill proposes new provisions that would make it illegal to annoy or inconvenience someone within fifteen feet of the premises of an abortion clinic, or any other “reproductive healthcare facility” (proposed 2317.51 A(2) and B(3).
Yes. This is correct. The City of Columbus is facing serious problems. Substance abuse is wrecking homes and families and lives. Addiction is fueling spikes in theft and burglary all across our city. Children are hungry, human trafficking victimizes our children, and our infant mortality rates are deplorable. Our schools are struggling and our police force is stretched thin. With all of these serious problems facing our community, why is it that the City of Columbus Council is focusing on passing a new law that makes it illegal to annoy an abortion clinic worker? Per their proposal, it is because there is an urgent issue of public safety because in 2015 there were 38 police complaints in the vicinity of a reproductive health clinic.
City, state, and federal laws already provide ample opportunity to prosecute anyone who blocks access to a clinic or who strikes, shoves, restrains, grabs, makes unwanted contact or makes a credible threat of any of the above to a patient or employee of a clinic – these are the other proposed contents of the bill. Prolife volunteers in central Ohio are not being arrested, fined, or cited on a regular basis because they are not violating the existing laws. For example, there is no reason to pass a law that it is illegal to hit someone within fifteen feet of an abortion clinic, because city ordinance already makes assault a crime everywhere in the city (Cols 2303.13). While Greater Columbus Right to Life has a zero tolerance policy with respect to violence, there is just absolutely no reason to believe that existing laws do not protect the safety of clinic employees and clients, and there is no justification for passing a law making annoyance a grounds for a criminal complaint.
These provisions have been included to create the appearance that there is a serious public safety issue at stake, when in reality this is just the abortion industry’s attempt to create a so-called bubble zone prohibiting pro-life speech in the vicinity of an abortion clinic. Time and time again, the courts have stricken these cases down – most recently in Massachusetts.
Let us be perfectly clear. This municipal ordinance is directly aimed at making the prayerful and peaceful work that Greater Columbus Right to Life does illegal. Under this law, if an employee, a customer, a vendor, or a neighbor finds it inconvenient or annoying to see you praying outside the abortion clinic, this Columbus municipal ordinance would make you a criminal – with sanctions up to one year in jail and a $1000 fine (proposed 2317 C). Moreover, the ability for abuse of this law goes far beyond the prolife speech and conduct it attempts to curtail, creating an avenue for petty neighbor squabbles all over the city.
This is an urgent issue. In Columbus, proposed ordinances can be moved on incredibly quickly. The next City Council meeting is scheduled for June 20th. If we do not act quickly, we may be defending ourselves and our rights in court by the 4th of July.
Since statewide abortion organizations have failed to get the state legislature to pass their flawed and unconstitutional HB 408, we have been closely watching proposed legislation at the city and county level here in central Ohio. Thus, it was with some surprise that a friend of GCRTL let us know that the proposal was heard at the June 6th City Council meeting. The proposal was not listed on the summary of actions that Council sends out, nor was it referenced on sponsor Councilwoman Brown’s media page. Surprisingly, not one mention of this proposed city ordinance was made in the weekly bulletins highlighting resolutions and ordinances.
We are not a political organization, but when the City of Columbus proposes to make it illegal to peacefully gather to pray and witness based on the overly vague concept of what might annoy or inconvenience someone, we will take measures to defend our mission – to defend innocent human life from conception until natural death by opposing abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, and defending the rights of conscience related to this mission.
The timing of this proposal was not an accident. It was introduced just prior to a holiday weekend and was not published in the City Council’s weekly update of pending proposals. It is probably not a surprise that it was heard right before our biggest fundraiser of the year –perhaps they were hoping that we would be too busy to notice it was introduced until it was too late.
We are asking our friends and supporters to take immediate action today to help us stop this fast-moving train to crazy-land. Here is how you can help:
Over the next few days, we have a lot on our plate, but making sure that we continue to enjoy our right to peacefully assemble in public places in the expression of our faith and the good policy of this state will be on the forefront.