Sometimes we shorten our mission with the phrase “womb to tomb” – it rhymes; it is memorable; and it is a lot easier to speak and type than our mission “building a community that defends innocent human life from conception until natural death.”
While a tremendous amount of our work has been (and will continue to be) ending abortion, there has been a building of threats against the dignity of human life at the last months of life. Several states now have medical euthanasia and assisted suicide laws, some of which have been promulgated by the legislature and others which have been carved out in judicial decisions. Just as “choice” and “reproductive health” have been thinly veiled and intentionally sanitized euphemisms for abortion, “death with dignity” and “compassionate choices” are increasingly being pushed into our lexicon as synonyms for euthanasia and assisted suicide.
The pressure is especially on in Ohio, where an organization called “Ohio End of Life Options” has been increasingly active. Their 501(c)(3) was approved by the IRS “in just one week!” according to the group. In early April, they spoke at the Association of Health Care Journalists’ annual conference. The conference covered a variety of topics, but the advocates for an Ohio euthanasia law were invited to speak at a panel exploring how to talk about death and “good death” in reporting. This undoubtedly will lay the groundwork for positive coverage of assisted suicide legislation and proposals. Then, just last week the group brought in the husband of Brittnay Maynard, a young woman whose terminal brain cancer diagnosis and subsequent advocacy for assisted suicide re-ignited the national discussion and pushed forward a number of legislative and legal battles over medical euthanasia.
More recently, the Ohio Senate recently passed legislation, SB 165, which authorized what is known as Medical Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (MOLST). That legislation is strongly opposed by a large number of faith-based and right to life organizations in the state, although some statewide entities like Ohio Right to Life and the Ohio Catholic Conference remained neutral on the bill.
We are not free from the propaganda at the theater, either. There has been significant buzz over the new film, Me Before You, a pro-euthanasia film that features a wheelchair bound man who falls in love with his caretaker before deciding to end his life. The film is being boycotted by prolife and disability rights organizations.
In the past few months, we have been increasing our efforts as they relate to human dignity on end-of-life issues. That effort is going to expand as we head into the fall with a fall training and speaker series, which will kick off on Monday, August 22 with a talk in the fundamentals of end-of-life bioethics and apologetics. The next in that series will be on Thursday, September 22nd as a panel of legal and medical experts will talk about living wills, healthcare power attorneys, and medical orders for life sustaining treatment and what the pro-life person needs to consider when drafting these documents. In October and November, we will have a discussion of state and national laws that relate to end-of-life care as well as an advocacy workshop.
We’ll be sending out more information on these programs as they approach, but we’d also be happy to hear from you – what do you think you could use some more information on? Let us know in the comments below or by sending us an email.
Over the past year, the abortion industry and their allies have tried very hard to take on the prolife movement. Illinois legislators just sent an effort to the Governor's office that would remove rights of conscience for physicians who do not wish to provide or refer for abortions, similar to a California law that is tied up in court but still moving forward in some jurisdictions.
They have worked to end pregnancy center advertisements on Google, and gotten Apple to stop sending women to pregnancy help centers, too.
NARAL also has an annual "expose" of pregnancy help centers, an effort in which they accuse pro-life organizations of deceiving women to trick them out of abortions.
Perhaps that is why it surprised me when I was trying to access the GCRTL Facebook page today. I was a bit surprised at the search hits when I typed in "Greater" - the options were "Greater Columbus Right to Life" and "Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio."
You will notice a few things. The first is that we have just a few hundred fewer "likes" on facebook. You can help us solve that by going there and liking our page right now! The second is that whereas we are listed as an "education" organization (GCRTL is considered an educational foundation by the IRS), PP lists themselves as, "Pregnancy and Childbirth Services."
Now, before you think that this is just something randomly generated by Facebook, let me show you that this is actually something that the organization is in charge of.
Now, according to their 2015 Annual Report, Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio had 58,513 patients last year. Of that, 238 of them participated in the "Healthy Moms and Healthy Babies" program - a program that provides support and education for women who are pregnant and through the first two years of her child's life. They do not list prenatal medical care or any obstetrics programs in their annual report. In fact, if you go onto their website, you will see pregnancy testing, adoption referral, and abortions offered. For a minute, I thought that they had added "midwife" services, but I realized it was a trick of my eyes - it just says "midlife."
I'm not super great at math, but 238 patients out of 58,000 is less than one half of a percent. It most certainly does not explain why they would promote themselves on social media as providing pregnancy and childbirth services. Moreover, it is especially surprising that an organization which supposedly serves 3/4 of our state is arguing that state diversion of $1.3 million is going to devastate efforts to serve women at risk of infant mortality through the Healthy Moms and Healthy Babies program. Earlier this week, they sued in federal court to keep those funds, and the federal judge granted them a temporary order.
Just like they lie about providing mammograms, they lie about providing comprehensive pregnancy and birth care to women, and they lie on their social media advertising. Perhaps to those willing to champion the intentional destruction of innocent life a few lies is no big deal. What do you think?
At Greater Columbus Right to Life, we are entirely dependent upon the support of our friends, and about half of our yearly budget comes from our annual banquet, the success of which is generally proportional to the number of attendees. Thus, I’ve been very encouraged over the past month as registrations for our June 13th banquet with Matt Walsh have exceeded any of our past events. In addition to the financial needs of the organization, a large turnout is heartening because of the joy and excitement when pro-life people gather in large numbers. It gives us and our volunteers a spirit of hope to be unified together.
As registration grew, a quiet voice told me that I should check with our venue to verify their maximum – even though I “know” the number because it has been a mental goal for several years. After a few days of mental nagging, I decided I might as well check, and I sent a quick email and moved on. In minutes I received the reply, which I quickly read. Then I read it again, and again. We were not booked at our venue for June 13, but for June 1st. I sat there for a moment, stunned and silent. My first reaction was absolute panic – had I accidentally booked the wrong date a year ago? I searched through my emails and found my original inquiry. Indeed – I had inquired, scheduled, and confirmed the correct date – June 13th. After a minute, I took a deep breath, and replied – forwarding her our original communications and asking if she was looking at 2016 rather than a prior year. She said no, and further explained that there was another event booked the evening of June 13th, a traveling show with lunches and dinners and extensive tear down – not only had the event been double booked, but even I could see that we were not going to be able to be at the venue that night.
Before I get any further, let me clearly say that the folks at Villa Milano have been good friends of ours over the years. They do an amazing job for us and at a price that is significantly below any other caterer or venue and even below their menu price. This generosity is extraordinary and is a large part of why we have been able to sustain our efforts via the banquet. I look forward to returning to Villa Milano in years to come. This was a simple mistake, the kind I’ve made many times over the course of my life, and I know that the team at VM was horrified and embarrassed. I appreciate everything that they did to try to help us to come up with a good solution to the problem at hand.
That notwithstanding, this was not good news. I was shocked that it had happened and panicked about what we would do if we had to cancel or move to a more expensive venue. I was frustrated that “this” type of thing seems to always happen. I was disappointed that what had just looked like it would be our biggest and most successful event ever was in jeopardy of cancellation. I was afraid that people would think that it was my error or that GCRTL wasn’t being run efficiently. I was also a little angry that yet another bad thing had happened. I could not help but wonder if this was nothing more than the most recent sparring match in the spiritual battle that is ending abortion.
As these thoughts and emotions overwhelmed my brain, the calm voice of reason said, “This was just a little mistake. At least you found out with several weeks’ notice, rather than several days’ notice.” It gave me hope, a reminder that God creates good out of our messiest of situations. As I thought about it more, I realized that six months ago, a similar situation happened and we found out we could not have our Roe Remembrance event inside the Statehouse, so eventually we moved outside. In the end, winter storm Jonas hit Washington DC, cancelling hundreds of trips to the DC March for Life. Not only did we have our biggest Roe event in recent memory, but the group was so large that it would not have fit inside the Statehouse. Something better came along then, so I decided that something better will come along now, and it did.
I also realized that if I experienced all of this mental and emotional disruption because of a fundraising event, it must be far worse for someone facing an unplanned pregnancy, a severe disability, or a terminal illness. There are plenty of human tragedies in this world, and mine was not one of them. Abortion is a tragedy. Brain Cancer is a tragedy. Rearranging a dinner is a lot of work and an inconvenience and causes a bit of anxiety, but it is not a tragedy. With this perspective, I realized an unanticipated benefit, as we could now add several hundred attendees to our dinner. I found not only optimism, but an opportunity for putting a positive spin on the change – perhaps even letting people believe that we moved in order to accommodate a larger crowd.
So we moved forward. It was not easy, but we were working on an alternate plan and everything was going to be ok. My goal was to move to a new venue with a communications plan and messaging that kept me, GCRTL, and the good folks at Villa Milano from any embarrassment or loss of reputation. It is not, after all, a lie to present the facts in such a way that people draw the most charitable conclusion, is it?
After a lot of work and some help over a very short period of time, we signed a contract to be at the Lausche Building. As things calmed down and we developed a plan, I realized two things, and in different ways they both worry me. First: this location is not without its challenges – namely increased costs. I am amazed by and grateful for the generosity of the vendors who have helped us to find creative ways to contain costs. That notwithstanding, this year - more so than ever, we are relying on the generosity of our banquet attendees. Our costs are going to be a bit higher at the fairgrounds. For this reason, we are asking everyone to cover his or her own parking, at $5 per car. We are reaching out to some additional sponsors who we hope can help us fully underwrite the venue, technology, and meal costs so that every dollar raised on the 13th goes to support our mission. If you or your business can help, please let me know.
More importantly, I was surprised by how fear of loss of reputation guided not only my personal actions but the thought process of so many others. The concern was not limited to the organization or me personally; it extended to our friends at villa Milano. It is strange, although not unsurprising that as we worked through the problems and the emotions described earlier, the fear of how we would be perceived by our friends and supporters remained. Again and again, the Bible tells us not to fear, and yet having overcome so many other hiccups – our fear continued to guide our plans.
It made me realize just how strongly we are culturally conditioned to fear loss of reputation and avoidance of embarrassment when it is at all possible to do so. If that conditioning guides an accidental scheduling snafu for a fundraiser, I cannot imagine the weight it places on someone experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and on those who care about her. To approach family and friends and colleagues, to walk into the doors of her church, or to face uncertainty about employment, housing, or finances.
A month ago, I shared about a woman who took her daughter for an abortion. She professed to be a Christian, believed abortion was wrong, and planned to go to church after the procedure to pray for God’s forgiveness. It was sorrowful and unfathomably frustrating, but given how easily the “fix and spin” came to me over our banquet, perhaps I now have a bit of insight as to how this woman and her daughter faced an unexpected change in their plans and in the cacophony of emotions and the fear grabbed tightly to the buoy that society throws toward them: abortion. In a small way, I can understand this mother and her motivation a little better, and I am sharing it because I hope that you can too.
There is value in empathy. I think many good and faithful people reject this type of empathy because we have been brainwashed to think that it results in acceptance, but that is not necessarily true. Understanding can also help us to turn from evil and even to fight it.
Being prolife in this culture is not always an easy balance. With one hand we must hold tightly to the compass of absolute moral truth, and with the other we must reach out in mercy to help those who have stumbled, knowing that we are also stumbling. It is in that spirit that I am sharing with everyone this small stumble along our path, as a reminder that we should never hold a pregnant woman, the elderly, or the infirm to a standard different than we will hold ourselves – especially in small things.
In the end, I do not know if our change in venue bears the mark of spiritual warfare, if it was nothing more than a coincidence, if it was a response to my lack of understanding a few weeks ago, or if it was the providential hand of God acting in some way that I do not yet see. I do know that with the change in venue we are able to open up hundreds of additional tickets, and yet I can see how being forced to stop promotions for a few weeks while we figured out a new location has had an impact on our number of registrations. We have until June 6th to get people registered, and I hope that more do - because this is going to be an absolutely amazing night here in central Ohio, and I hope we will see you there. I would really love to see our biggest event ever despite all of these challenges.
If you would like to join us, register at www.gcrtl.org/banquet by June 6th. I would also invite you to share this event with friends, family, church small groups, and colleagues. If you are interested in sponsoring or volunteering the evening, I would love to talk with you, and if you cannot join us but would like to support our work, you can do so via our brand-new giving portal. Lastly, keep us, those we serve, and anyone we influence in your prayers.
One of our volunteers, R, shared a recent interaction on the sidewalk that she could only describe as “amazing.” As R was grabbing some things out of her car, a woman came up to her prayer partner, B, and gave him a big hug. As you might imagine, she was pretty surprised to learn that this young lady didn't know B, she just wanted to thank him for being out there.
The young lady shared her story with us. A year ago, she came to the abortion clinic where she ran into some of the Greater Columbus Right to Life sidewalk counselors, as she had been warned by the abortion clinic that she would. She shared that she was specifically warned to stay away from and ignore us while they confirmed and preyed upon her worst fears: that she would not be able to take care of her new baby and her 8-year old child. She shared that, in hindsight, the SWC team were people that God had sent to stop her from having the abortion, but that she listened to the clinic, walked right around the us, and went in for her abortion.
She shared that in the past year, she has been crushed by her abortion and so has her daughter, and she has always wanted to stop and thank us, but never quite could. Today, however, something was different. Today, as she drove by, she was on her way to a job interview. She was also pregnant. This time, when her boyfriend told her to just get rid of the baby, she decided to get rid of him and find a better job to make a life for her and her children. She also shared that she continues to grieve the loss of her child, but that she has consolation in the love and forgiveness of Christ and is now working on forgiving herself. We were able to get her to a pregnancy help center and connect her with post-abortion healing programs. After some tears and hugs, she left, leaving our volunteers with the powerful knowledge that their efforts had turned this woman away from the abortion clinic, just not in the way or on the day that we thought.
Please keep this woman and her children – born and unborn in your prayers. We would also ask especially for your prayers with respect to another couple we met earlier that same day. In this case, the woman learned that she had cancer and was referred to Founder’s for an abortion prior to beginning treatment. They took some information, but went in to get the opinion of the clinic anyway.
This day’s experience underscores a need that we see to especially continue our efforts of prayer and presence beyond just the death hours at the clinic. For this reason, we have recently started a “second shift” of volunteers at the clinic. This second shift is going to emphasize our commitment to caring for the post-abortive woman and continuing to be there as a prayerful and peaceful witness to the mercy of God. If you would like to join us for our weekly prayer list, you can sign up at www.gcrtl.org/pray. Statistical evidence shows that about 50% of women who seek abortions have one or more abortions in their past. Again and again, I remind our volunteers that our job is not to save babies from abortion. Our job is to be faithful in planting the seed in the heart of the mother and to work to transform the culture. It is beautiful when the seeds that we plant take immediate root in the form of a turn-away, and we are so thankful to the sixteen turn-aways that we have seen this year (not counting the one that took a year which I just shared!!), but even when it takes some time, we have reason for optimism and hope.
Speaking of planting a seed – that is the theme of this year’s annual banquet with special guest Matt Walsh. If you support our work and would like to meet some more of our people, we’d love to have you join us for the banquet. God Bless, and keep on praying!
Over the past few days, we’ve gotten quite a few questions from people about SB 165, legislation establishing a MOLST, or Medical Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment. There is some disagreement among prolife organizations when it comes to the legislation, with organizations like Ohio Right to Life, the Catholic Conference, and the Catholic Diocese of Columbus’ Office of Social Concerns remaining neutral while others, such as Toledo, Cincinatti, and Cleveland Right to Life organizations, Citizens for Community Values, and the Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Foundation opposed to the legislation. The organizations opposing the legislation have also pointed to other groups, such as the Catholic Medical Association that generally oppose MOLST-type legislation but that have not weighed in on the bill.
As an organization operating as a 501c(3), Greater Columbus Right to Life does not think that it is appropriate for us to weigh in on a specific piece of legislation. However, we are rightly concerned with the ethics of end-of-life decision making, and we can see that the debate on the subject has left many of our volunteers and friends a bit confused.
For those who are interested, the non-partisan Legislative Services Commission has copies of the legislation, its summary, and its fiscal note available online. You can also read the statement from Ohio Right to Life on why they remain neutral on the bill, and you can read a letter from the above-described coalition of pro-life organizations opposed to the legislation. You can also read testimony from the legislative hearings on SB 165 by visiting the Civil Justice Committee's page. To read the testimony you will need to scroll down to the bottom of the page and select the “Committee Documents” page. The most recent hearings where SB 165 was discussed were April 27, April 20, and December 8 (2015). By clicking on those tabs, you can open copies of the testimony. If, after reading them, you would like to contact your legislator, you can do so.
We do think that this is a good opportunity to talk about the difference between medical directives and health care proxies. Medical directives – be they DNR or MOLST or POLST, are often considered to be ethically questionable. As a pro-life person, we strongly encourage that you forgo both DNR and traditional “living will” forms and instead obtain a durable healthcare power of attorney that authorizes a trusted person to make decisions on your behalf if you are no longer capable. One of our goals for 2016 is to develop a more robust education and advocacy program on end-of-life care and decision making for the central Ohio community. We have quite a few resources available on our website (click on the “end of life” tab), and will continue to develop that part of our page. We are also getting ready to announce some upcoming educational opportunities on end-of-life ethics and care. If this is something that interests you and you’d like to volunteer with that effort, please let us know.
We hope that this helps to sort out some of the confusion on SB 165 and helps you to form an opinion on if it is more appropriate to be neutral or opposed as a pro-life person.
Today’s sidewalk snapshot comes to you courtesy of M, one of our Saturday stalwarts! She shared three interactions from passers-by. The first one was that a man stopped by to thank the group for praying, but he also noted that there is a need for more people to pay attention to the injustices throughout life, especially those that occur in the black community.
A while later, a second car pulled up. The woman driving said that she had been wanting to come to thank our group for a while. She said that she showed up for an abortion about a year ago and after speaking to “ladies praying a rosary” she left. She then introduced us to her one-year old son. According to M, “She was glowing and had tears of joy. At the time she was thanking us, a car drove by and yelled that we should be ashamed of ourselves. So ironic.”
That is a lot for one day, but here are my thoughts. First – praise the Lord! It is a rare (and joyous) day that we get to meet the children who were born because someone cared enough to have the courage to come pray in front of the abortion clinic. Our efforts are focused on empowering women to turn away from the clinic and seek help from a pro-life pregnancy help center. Because both we and the pregnancy help centers take privacy very seriously, we often do not see or hear much in the way of follow-up.
Second – we are not entirely sure who the “ladies praying the rosary” were – but it could have been one of our dedicated sidewalk counselors, one of our frequent prayer partners, or even someone participating in the spring 40 Days for Life campaign last year. Whether you have an hour a month, an hour a week, or an hour a day, we can use your help, and most importantly – God can use your efforts to change a heart and save a life.
Third – we agree that there is a need for people to pay attention to the injustices throughout life, especially those that occur in the black community. As our friend Bryan from Stand True says, social justice starts in the womb. While a popular narrative is that pro-life folks have a “fetus fetish” (yes, that is an actual accusation of our work), the reality is that pro-life people are engaged in a whole continuum of care. They are the people caring for ill family members, they are the families serving in soup kitchens, and they are the churches that take seriously the efforts to care for those society has turned its back on. In fact, it is our position which is consistent. The reason that black lives matter, the reason that we should care for the sick and house the homeless and help out the needy is because all human life has intrinsic value – value which is not determined by age, income, ability, wealth, or any other thing which changes over the course of a lifetime. We do not get to pick and “choose” which lives matter – because they all do. Ok, so sometimes we have a debate about the best way to help protect the dignity of that life. It is also a reality that we sometimes fail. We aren’t claiming that we are perfect- merely that we seek to be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect.
Lastly, to the car driving by yelling that we should be ashamed of ourselves – oh, the irony coming from the crowd whose mantra is the pseudo-biblical and out-of-context, “thou shall not judge.” In a sense, however, he or she is not entirely wrong. We should be ashamed of ourselves. We should be ashamed that we live in a society where women see abortion as their best and only option. We should be ashamed that in the year 2016 we think that there is something magical about the birth canal or a C-section that conveys both personhood and basic human rights. It is a shame that in a metropolitan area with a population of a little more than two million, where almost half a million people identify as Evangelical, Catholic, and Orthodox Christians, our efforts are carried out by a core of volunteers that number in the hundreds rather than the tens of thousands. We should also be ashamed that our efforts are often hamstrung by our own egos and the petty bickering that comes from differences in strategy or creed. Daring to stand up for life in the public square? Daring to pray in public? Hearing the thankfulness, seeing the joy, and understanding the love of a mother who chose life for her son, and having the rare occasion to meet the fruits of our work? There is nothing of shame there, only joy and grateful hearts.
Thanks for all of the “Love” for our new “sidewalk snapshots” – short vignettes that share our tales from the sidewalk! Are you a GCRTL volunteer who would like to share your story from the sidewalk? Let us know! Are you ready to join our efforts in your own way? Join our prayer team today.
I got a call yesterday from one of our volunteers, M. She started by saying, “I have to tell you the most blessed story. I was praying at Founder’s today, and it was such a grace-filled day. God just used my stupidity. I didn’t have any literature, I didn’t say the right things, and yet somehow, in my conversations with a Dad, he had a change of heart, went in to talk to his partner, and they decided to choose life for their baby!”
As M went on, she explained that the gentleman approached her and explained that they already had three children and that his partner couldn’t have this one. Because of some confusion, M thought that the woman was pregnant by another man and that they had decided to abort this one. In the course of explaining things, the father said over and over again, “No, this is my baby. It is mine. I am the father.” Then, as M said, something clicked in the father. He realized that this was his baby. She went on to say, “His tone then changed from justifying it to me to justifying it to himself. Finally, I looked at him and said ‘You have three other children? You must be exhausted. She must be exhausted.” He then looked at Maureen, a little overwhelmed, and said, “I am. We are.” M then looked at him and said, “It is hard, but it gets better, and there are people who want to help you.” The father then said to himself one last time, “I am the father,” and he went inside. In a few minutes, he and the mother of his child came out, both of them absolutely elated. M encouraged them to go to the nearby pregnancy center where there is hope and help, waiting for them.
There are a few takeaways from this conversation. The first is that M kept saying, over and over, “It was such an amazing blessing. God used my stupidity in the moment to bring about great goodness.” For whatever reason, M didn’t quite understand the nature of the relationship, and for whatever reason, the man felt he needed to explain. In doing so, he repeated again and again, “I am the father. It is my baby. I AM THE FATHER!” Eventually, it just clicked with him, and in a way that it may not have happened if her confusion hadn't led him to clarify. I think M was being a bit hard on herself. It wasn’t her stupidity, just a little confusion on her part. That however, brings me to my second takeaway, which is that so many potential volunteers stay away because they do not know what to say; they fear that they are not sufficiently skilled in apologetics; they think that they will say the wrong thing and make it worse; or they just let their doubts and fears keep them away. One of the things that we emphasize in our trainings is that our volunteers are not called to be successful; they are called to be faithful and loving and committed. Our job is not to save babies, but to plant seeds. If we do that and keep doing that, we can eventually step back and see how God has woven even our missteps into a beautiful tapestry. Sometimes it is immediate – like in the case of the turn-away, sometimes it takes a bit longer – like when one of our volunteers gets a text message with a photo of a baby six or eight months down the road, and sometimes we may never fully see it with our human eyes. Even if we never, ever, ever see the fruits of our efforts in the world, we have faith that they are there. In fact, I frequently hear our volunteers say, “I started doing this because I wanted to save babies, I kept doing it because I saw the opportunity to help women, but what surprised me the most of all is how my own faith has deepened – how my life has changed.”
While there are probably a few more takeaways from this conversation, the last one that I want to focus on is how critical it is to build communities that support the dignity of human life at all stages. We often have a picture in our head of what a woman who is abortion-minded looks like. It leads us to make assumptions about who is and who is not at risk of an abortion. In this day and age, every pregnant woman is a little at risk of abortion, because at some moment we all face a crisis. Maybe it is financial. Maybe it is substance abuse. Maybe it is a bad relationship and a woman who wants out or desperately wants to stay in. Perhaps it is school, work, or lack of work. It could even be a desperately wanted baby with a devastating diagnosis. It might even be an incredibly loving family that is just so very tired and a little overwhelmed.
Today I’d like to ask you to lift up this father and mother and their four children – three on the outside and one in the womb. Let’s pray that they are strengthened and fortified, not only by God who is our greatest consolation, but by a community of people whose faith affirms the dignity of all human life, every day.
Thank you M, for being out there with #TeamThursday! You are amazing.
PS: To further illustrate this point, M and her prayer partner had a second turn-away on Thursday, this one in spite of a language barrier. Once again proving that you need not be perfect in order to change someone’s life!
Things are not always easy on the sidewalk. Over and over again my volunteers share that there are two kinds of days that are extra tough. The first is an average Thursday. Thursdays tend to be less busy days at the abortion clinic, probably because that is the day that Accu-Medical comes to pick up and dispose of the past week’s aborted babies. While there has been much discussion of Stericycle as a national aborted tissue disposal company, both of the central Ohio abortion clinics (Planned Parenthood and Founder’s) have contracts (or in the last six months have had contracts) with Accu-Medical. Our Thursday volunteers do triple duty. They sidewalk counsel women going in, they pray for them and their unborn children about to be aborted, and they also serve as mourners at an anonymous funeral procession for unknown numbers of children as box after box of fetal remains is carted out of the building. Thursdays are tough days.
The other tough days are those when they encounter someone who is a professing Christian who agrees that abortion is wrong and persists in doing it anyway. That is what happened last Wednesday with R, one of our Sidewalk Counselors.
On this particular Wednesday, R had a tough day; a lot of hard hearts. There was also one very joyful turn away. But what really stuck with her was talking to the mother of a girl going in to have an abortion. The mother reported that her (very young) teenage daughter was an excellent student and an aspiring athlete and that they knew abortion was wrong, but that God would forgive them, because this is what they “have” to do. More than you might imagine, we hear, “I know that this (abortion) is wrong, but God will forgive me.” Folks, if we could just get prolife people to stop having abortions, the abortion rate would plummet overnight.
As R described it to me, the mother tearfully acknowledged that she was going to leave the abortion clinic to go to church to pray for forgiveness for the abortion. Do not be confused, as I was at first. The mother was not indicating that she would be leaving the appointment to pray about what they almost did. On this Wednesday, the mother of the teenager and the grandmother of the unborn child was, before the abortion, already planning to leave the clinic to ask for forgiveness for what they were doing. She explained that her daughter, a young teenager, was a good student with a bright future ahead of her who made a mistake. The mother indicated that she had too many kids to also raise her daughter’s child and that they knew that abortion was wrong, but that this is what they had to do so the daughter could continue to do well in school, compete in athletics, and get into a good college and have a career. All of our volunteer’s pleading and comments were not enough to sway them from this course of action.
A blog post is not enough to get into the intricacies of what it means for our society when we compartmentalize our beliefs so that on one hand we “do what we have to do” and on the other “believe what we ought to believe.” Nor is this intended as a vehicle to beat up on women who were in incredibly difficult circumstances and chose abortion not fully realizing the ramifications of that choice. It is also not intended to imply that grace and forgiveness and healing are not available to anyone who is truly sorry for what they have done and seeks forgiveness. We enter into this work in the reality that we are all broken people living in a broken world and that abortion is but one manifestation of this brokenness.
But here is the thing, the very definition of sin is to do something of your own free will with full knowledge that doing it is wrong. To do so while presuming God will forgive you is extremely problematic for a few reasons, but two specifically come to mind. The first is that genuine repentance means feeling genuine sorrow. Why do something knowing that you will be sorry for it? Remember, we were not talking to a scared pregnant early teen-aged girl here, but to her mother – who was fully complicit in and encouraging of the abortion. The second problem is that we often forget that while God’s forgiveness is unending, there are consequences in this world for our actions. There are physical complications from abortion and many women express psychological and mental and spiritual consequences. Why willingly take on all of this, and why willingly let your teenage daughter take on all this?
Sometimes it is incredibly tough, as our volunteer out that day, R, will tell you, and it starts to feel like we are being outmaneuvered by a character in CS Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. If you are familiar with the book you may remember the seventh letter, where Screwtape explains to his protégé that God wants men to be concerned with what they do, but that evil wants them to be preoccupied with what is happening to them. If you are not familiar with the book, you should put it on your reading list sometime.
This is why those days are so hard, because you know that the remorse and the sorrow will come for the mothers, and you wonder if you could have done it better – maybe you should have been gentler or brought more tough love. Again, this is where we must remember that while we seek to get better every day, our job is not to be successful, but to be faithful, and to plant the seed.
I sometimes describe our volunteers as the last sign of hope for a woman entering the abortion clinic and the first sign of mercy for those walking out of it, and we will continue to be that. In many ways, that is part of the role of our Sidewalk Volunteers – we serve as advocates for the unborn children and we serve as witnesses to God’s Truth – from the perspective of both the law and the love. I also hope that as frustrating as this situation is, how often do we presume God’s mercy in forgiving our own sins, especially those that are less visible?
So I ask you today, to pray for this Mother and Grandmother, pray for her daughter’s lost motherhood, pray for the unborn child and others like it at risk for abortion. But also pray for your fellow Christian brothers and sisters that we continue to grow in faith and that we reject the empty promises of the one who wants us to stop thinking about the nature of what we do and start thinking about the situation that we are in.
 And if you decide to buy it on amazon.com, be sure to go to smile.amazon.com first and support GCRTL with your purchase!
For Immediate Release
April 1, 2016
(Note: This was an April Fool's Joke, which we are leaving archived on our page but do now want to cause any confusion)
GCRTL Expands Mission Statement:
Within 12 hours, membership triples and annual budget needs met.
COLUMBUS, OH – At the March 31 meeting of the Board of Trustees the board unanimously agreed to expand the mission and vision of the organization. Henceforth, GCRTL will not only focus on efforts to defend the sanctity of all human life from conception until natural death, but the group will also focus on putting an end to the unjust killing of innocent companion animals.
A representative of the organization noted, “For years, we have worked tirelessly to end the death and destruction of unborn children, specifically targeting abortion. In recent years, we have become aware of the need to also focus on end-of-life issues. Numerous states are now legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia. As part of our Board discussion, we became aware that humans are not the only ones threatened by euthanasia.” The representative continued, “The reality is, most people consider their companion animals to be active members of their families, often enjoying a relationship that parallels that of family. Many have delayed marriage and family, preferring instead to invest emotional relationships in their pets, or as they are often called, fur-kids. And the reality is that as part of our work to continue fighting against the death and destruction of innocent unborn children in the womb, we see an opportunity to help shape people’s consciousness as to the value of all life. Of course we are going to continue working to end abortion, and we are making great strides. In 2012, there were 5698 abortions performed in Franklin County. There were also 5,226 dogs euthanized in Franklin County. Our efforts to reduce abortion have had an impact – more than a 20% reduction in just two years. Imagine if we took that level of success to the humane society!” The representative added, “We realized that there is such a parallel here between human children and fur children, and we thought that perhaps by expanding our mission we could tap into something so help people see the parallel between the injustice of killing unborn children and the cruelty of euthanizing furkids, and in doing so we could really get people to think more seriously about adoption – across species – as a better option.”
The organization has not yet set its program parameters. However, in the twelve or so hours that the change was made, the community response has been significant. A representative commented, “We have had such an outpouring of support – both from a volunteer and a financial standpoint. Literally, hundreds of people have stepped up willing to pray outside of the dog kill facilities, and thousands of dollars have poured in to support our efforts. Corporate donations, especially, have skyrocketed. It is amazing at the number of people and businesses who have perceived efforts to protect the unborn as fringe-related activity are now stepping up to the plate with checkbooks in hand. We are exploring a partnership that will streamline the infant and puppy adoption processes, and may ask the legislature to consider expanding tax advantages to families who are willing to adopt both dogs and babies. I think it is really a win-win for central Ohio.”
Asked about species of animals beyond dogs, the representative commented, “Well, among pro-life circles, the incremental approach is a hotly debated topic. We are not trying to delve into that argument. We think it is possible to have a principled and consistent approach that also works with a strategic approach to changing the culture. Of course we think that all human life has dignity and should be protected, and we are strong advocates for the appropriate standard of care for companion and other animals. Right now we are going to start off with dogs, and as we learn and grow we can hopefully expand to include other companion animals such as cats, gerbils, and the occasional goat.”
For more information about this program, to get involved, or if you are a bit confused, we highly suggest you visit our webpage for more information: www.gcrtl.org/dogs.
Many pro-life individuals wear the tiny feet pins, representing the size of a child’s feet at ten weeks gestation. Today the FDA has announced a policy change that will expand the use of the abortion pill in Ohio to 70 days gestation – the same age as is represented by those tiny feet pins.
Generally, the change will have the most dramatic effect in Ohio, where a state law passed in 2004 (and then litigated until 2012) required that it be administered and prescribed exactly per the FDA label. Planned Parenthood vigorously argued for off-label use in Ohio, which is how it uses the drug in most states. In 2011, the FDA released a post-marketing report that RU-486 was responsible for at least 14 maternal deaths and more than 2200 serious complications in the US and at least 5 deaths outside of the US. Nationally, the abortion pill accounts for about 20-25% of all abortions. Here in Ohio, all medical abortions combined are about 5%.
By our reading, there will be three changes which will most dramatically impact Ohioans. The first is that the gestation stage at which the drug is used will be almost doubled. Previously, it was legal to use the drug up to 49 days gestation. The new label, effective today, will permit it to be used to 70 days gestation - 10 weeks. Secondly, it will reduce the requirement that each dose of the drug be administered by a physician. Currently each dose must be taken in clinic (some have questioned if this is the actual practice in some clinics). Now, the first dose will be administered in office but the second dose will be taken at home or "at a place convenient" to the woman. The third change will lower the dosing requirements.
The 2016 standards, announced by the FDA today, state:
Mifeprex is approved, in a regimen with misoprostol, to end a pregnancy through 70 days gestation (70 days or less since the first day of a woman’s last menstrual period). The approved Mifeprex dosing regimen is:
In addition to the complications noted above, Greater Columbus Right to Life has documented numerous botched abortions in women who were prescribed the RU-486 regimen locally in recent years. We will continue to monitor the available reports.
Today’s decision will undoubtedly have abortion advocates cheering that medical abortions will be available to more women, later in their pregnancies, with fewer visits to a doctor, and at a lesser cost. We cannot cheer. Despite the relatively low number of medical abortions in our state, they make up a large part of the documented complications from abortion. Intentionally expanding the availability and use of the abortion drug will increase the deaths of unborn children and put more women in physical danger. That the FDA amended this drug label despite its own documented adverse affects is unconscionable and suggests that this is a political decision made at the request of the abortion industry.
Abortion shows a fundamental disregard for the dignity of human life. It is a horrific and barbarous practice regardless of how it is performed or at what stage the child’s humanity is taken. Today’s move by the FDA is a step in the wrong direction. We will update you as additional information is made available, including information on how state regulatory entities respond.
Note: RU-486 works by blocking progesterone in the body. Without progesterone, a pregnancy cannot continue. For this reason, some people compare the abortion pill to intentionally inducing a miscarriage. In Ohio, the abortion pill has traditionally been regulated in the same manner as a surgical abortion, although recent policy changes have resulted in several new "pill mills" being opened outside of an ambulatory surgical facility environment. Medical abortions are different than so-called emergency contraception, which works in the same way that most hormonal birth control pills work. Many people are confused by the distinction between the abortion pill, which intentionally ends an established pregnancy, and the “morning after” (also called “Plan B”) pill, which can act as an abortifacient by preventing the implantation of a recently fertilized ovum. Here is a fact sheet from the Association of Reproductive Health Officials that offers an explanation of the difference. We provide this as an explanation, not as an endorsement. GCRTL policy opposes all abortifacients.
Note 2: This entry will be updated for content at our discretion. Any changes are to increase clarity.