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.
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.