While the official abortion figures for the State of Ohio compiled by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) will not be available until the fall, information obtained by Greater Columbus Right to Life suggests that Ohio abortions increased by at least two percent in 2020 when compared to the 2019 Ohio Abortion Statistics report from ODH.
This conclusion was reached after reading a study  published in the May 2020 edition of Contraception looking at “barriers” to expansion of medication and telemedicine abortions in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia during the pandemic. The authors looked at related state and federal laws and policies (such as the FDA label that requires in-person dispensing of the abortion pill and the Ohio law that requires the label be followed), executive actions during the pandemic (such as Ohio’s order to postpone non-emergency medical procedures, including surgical abortions), and data voluntarily reported each month by 14 abortion clinics in Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky between December of 2019 and December of 2020. The study authors note that data collection methodology was approved by both the OSU and Cincinnati University Institutional Review Boards. They also noted that 14 of the 16 clinics offering medication abortion were included in the study. Locations that did not supply data were not included, nor was facility-specific data supplied.
We compared the 2020 monthly abortion figures provided in the article to abortion data published by ODH for 2019 and found that the total number of abortions in Ohio increased by at least 383 (1.9%) and the number of medication abortions in Ohio increased by at least 602 (7.7%) in 2020. Notably, these conclusions are based on the belief that abortion providers correctly reported their figures to the researchers and come with the caveat that the study will most likely be lower than the official state figures published by ODH in the fall; they probably do not include every location that may be providing surgical or medical abortions in Ohio.
The provided figures cannot tell us if the increase in abortions is directly attributable to COVID. From our Sidewalk Counseling program, we know that there can be fluctuations by months; some months are just busier than others. However, April and May of 2020 showed sharp increases in the numbers of total abortions when compared to other months: 1919 in April and 1826 in May compared to 1610 in February and 1677 in June. April particularly showed a steep increase in the percentage of abortions that were committed by medication: 72% compared to 34% in March and 39% in June. It is also notable that the only year-to-year monthly comparisons available were in December of 2019 (pre-pandemic) and December of 2020. There were 1457 abortions reported by surveyed clinics in December of 2019 and 1714 in 2020. The study authors did conclude that the Executive Order banning elective medical procedures were most likely responsible for the sharp increase in medication abortions in April. A lawsuit filed against the state earlier this year pointed out that the state EO was enforced on abortion clinics, with ODH sending inspectors until stopped by litigation.
We do not usually know the reasons abortions increase, but we do know that helping women to find empowering and life-affirming resources, encouraging them to seek healing for a past abortion, and bringing the power of prayer to the sidewalk has demonstrably lowered the abortion rate here and across the country. Want to get involved? Consider joining our sidewalk prayer team.
 K. Mello et al., Federal, state, and institutional barriers to the expansion of medication and telemedicine abortion services in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia during the COVID-19 pandemic, Contraception, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.contraception. 2021.04.020
We very much appreciate the constant pro-life work of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. He is once again showing his support not only for the unborn but also the rule of law. After the Department of Health and Human Services announced an effort to provide abortion funding through Title X, AG Yost led a group of 20 other state Attorneys General to provide clear, thorough, and convincing comments against the proposed rule. The HHS should not be funding abortion in direct violation of Title X, and today AG Yost and 20 other state attorneys let the federal government know that they will not allow the federal government to illegally fund elective abortions without a legal fight.
You can read the press release on this story here. You can also read the letter to HHS Secretary Becerra here.
On behalf of our membership and the State of Ohio - Thank you AG Yost for your continued personal and professional leadership to defend the youngest of Ohioans' right to life and to protect the rights of conscience of Ohio taxpayers!
We will be sending a Thank-you to AG Yost. If you would like to sign our thank you letter, sign up below by June 1.
Today the United States Supreme Court agreed to take up Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The case was filed against Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. The case is being watched closely by both sides of the abortion debate because it is a case that directly challenges the precedents set by Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which established a legal framework for a right to abortion before the point of viability. It is also one of the first major abortion cases the court will hear since it obtained a pro-life majority.
This case is of particular interest because it could be used to determine if any state law, such as Ohio’s Heartbeat law, permits a state to regulate or ban abortion before a baby can survive outside of the womb. At least twelve other states (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Tennessee) have passed restrictions and prohibitions on abortion before viability. The Mississippi law was blocked from taking effect by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is among the most conservative-leaning courts in the nation, which held it would go against the current precedent. In 2016, the US Supreme Court let stand similar rulings on 12 week and 5 week abortion bans and also struck down a Texas law on health and safety regulations, arguing that they had the effect of limiting abortions. That the Court is taking up this case is significant.
Since 2016, the makeup of the Court has dramatically changed, with what is perceived as a 6-3 split between more conservative and more liberal jurists. The case is not necessarily a “slam-dunk” though, as Chief Justice Roberts has surprised many with his decisions supporting precedent on abortion and other issues that generally are politically opposed by more conservative voices. Legal observers note that this is at least the second time in the past few weeks that the Supreme Court has indicated a willingness to take up a case that challenges precedent.
When speaking to the early leaders of the pro-life movement, you get the sense that most of them saw Roe as something that would be overturned in short order, either through the courts or through efforts to abolish abortion through efforts like the Human Life Amendment. At the same time, however, abortion advocates were pushing state-level ratification of the ERA, which many believe would enshrine abortion rights in the US Constitution.
When we talk about the Human Life Amendment (HLA), most people are familiar with the concept of an amendment to the US Constitution to protect Human Life, which was endorsed by the U.S. Catholic Bishops and others. Most do not realize that there were actually several versions of a HLA introduced. They include the Hogan, Whitehurst, and Burke Amendments of 1973, the Scott Amendment of 1975, the Paramount Amendment of 1979, the Hatch Amendment of 1981, and the Hatch-Eagleton Act of 1983. The provisions varied between returning abortion to a state-decision and declaring the personhood of the unborn child, and they had bipartisan sponsors and support over the years. The only version of the Human Life Amendment to reach a formal floor vote was the Hatch-Eagleton Amendment, which received 49 supporting votes in the Senate on June 28, 1983, falling 18 votes short of the 67 required for passage. Attempts to change the Constitution were not the only proposals that sought to end abortion-on-demand in the United States. This does not take into account the hundreds of provisions introduced in Congress or the States to overturn and restrict Roe.
In recent years, there has been a widespread effort to establish a legal and political strategy that would incrementally restrict abortion as part of a strategic effort to immediately reduce the number of babies who die each day by abortion while also laying the groundwork for Roe to be overturned and/or abortion to be abolished. For many of them, the Court’s announcement that it would accept the Mississippi case was a major step forward in that effort. It is an effort that has not been without vocal opposition, not only from the anticipated crowd of abortion supporters and advocates, but even from within pro-life circles. In recent years, there has been no small amount of internecine squabbles about strategy – both in timing (on bills such as the heartbeat bill) and on larger strategic issues (such as incrementalism vs outright bans).
Even with the presumed 6-3 majority, it is not going to be a slam-dunk of a court case. In a sense, we have very few clues about the willingness of the Court under its current makeup to take on a case with major precedent implications. This is not the time to celebrate. If anything, it is the time to work harder and pray harder. It is the time to be on the sidewalk – prayerfully and peacefully. It is also a time to continue reaching out to those who do not share our pro-life views and those who have different methods of proclaiming the Gospel of Life.
The U.S. is probably more divided than ever on the issue of abortion, and abortion advocates continue to be more and more radicalized. We need only to look at what happened in Columbus on January 22nd to see an example of this. Throughout the world, in the places where abortion is broadly legal, most countries limit abortion at 12 weeks. The United States is one of only seven countries where abortion is legal through all nine months of pregnancy (we are joined by China, North Korea, Vietnam, Canada, Singapore, and the Netherlands, and the latter two greatly restrict abortion to fetal and maternal health after 24 weeks).
The announcement that the Court would take up the case means that it most likely will hear oral arguments in the fall with decisions most likely to come out in the spring or early summer of ’22.
Bonus: In another disappointing announcement from the White House, President Biden’s press secretary responded to the news that the Court would be considering the Mississippi case by reiterating President Biden’s commitment to codifying Roe v Wade as federal law. The Biden Administration’s continued assault on the right to life comes even as there is discussion among Catholic Bishops as to how to handle communion for politicians who claim to be Catholic but advocate for expansions of abortion. The Pillar recently provided some analysis on this matter.
March 8, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The following can be attributed to Beth Vanderkooi, Executive Director.
COLUMBUS – Today four individuals were charged with various counts including Disorderly Conduct, Criminal Trespass, and Criminal Damaging in response to events that occurred on January 22, 2021, when a group of self-identified ‘militant abortion extremists’ stormed into the St. Joseph Cathedral shouting obscenities and blasphemy, halting a Mass and then interrupting the Roe Remembrance, a private event on Statehouse Grounds.
We appreciate the immediate work of the Columbus Police to remove those involved from the Cathedral and the efforts of the Ohio State Highway Patrol to keep participants at the Roe Remembrance safe. We will continue to cooperate fully with law enforcement and continue to review our legal options.
Greater Columbus Right to Life does organize and participate in peaceful prayer, protest, and ministry on the sidewalks around Ohio’s abortion clinics. Hundreds of women and their children have expressed gratitude for the work that our team has done to invite women to consider a life choice. GCRTL volunteers are held to extremely high standards of behavior, and any volunteer who does not abide by those standards is invited to either change his or her behavior or withdraw from our program. While we aspire to be models of good behavior, we do not own the sidewalks and can neither expel nor be held responsible for those who affiliate with other organizations or work independently. If any GCRTL volunteer or any other pro-life advocate were to infiltrate a Columbus abortion clinic, scream curse words and threats, interrupt a procedure, and damage property, it is a reasonable belief and expectation that he or she would be held similarly accountable under the law. At a minimum, GCRTL would repudiate the action and sever all relationships with the individuals involved.
This has, unfortunately, not been the case with Ohio’s abortion advocates. Instead of acknowledging that those involved went far beyond the First Amendment right to protest on public sidewalks, they have instead responded with veiled threats toward me, defamatory and untrue statements about our organization, and attempts to obscure the facts of what happened in a shameful display of victim blaming. There is no justification to engage in Disorderly Conduct, Criminal Trespass and Criminal Damaging because another has expressed pro-life beliefs and action. Such an attempt to chill free speech is shameful and manipulative.
For a group of self-described ‘militant abortion extremists’ to enter into private property with the intended purpose of disrupting and blaspheming a religious observance and disrupting a private event cannot and should not be justified by pointing to the actions of law-abiding persons exercising their First Amendment rights by peacefully protesting abortion.
St. Joseph, terror of Demons, pray for us.
Praising God for Faithful Volunteers and Turn-Aways
It is midway through the 40 Days for Life Campaign, and Greater Columbus Right to Life has celebrated two moms who chose life after encountering a member of our team. In at least one of those instances, the Planned Parenthood was closed, and our regular Sidewalk team would not have been there were it not for the 40 Days Campaign. For that, and for every life choice, we give thanks to God.
We were not sure what this 40 Days for Life Campaign would look like. Many of our days are adopted by Churches, and continued reticence to gather due to the coronavirus has meant fewer opportunities to promote and sign up for church adopted days. More dramatically, however, is that we were concerned that the events that happened during local commemorations for Roe v Wade would have a chilling effect on the willingness of churches and individuals to come out to pray with us.
On January 22, 2021, a group of self-proclaimed “militant abortion extremists” stormed past a Columbus police officer and into St. Joseph Cathedral during the Respect Life Mass, which was being concelebrated by the Bishops of Columbus and Cleveland. The extremists ran up the aisles toward the altar, shouting blasphemies and curse words and damaging property. Bishop Brennan paused his homily while several men moved to protect the altar and the tabernacle. Many in attendance calmed their children and knelt to pray.
After a few moments, numerous Columbus Police officer responded to the scene, removing the extremists from the Mass, which eventually proceeded. Because the extremists were not arrested, at the conclusion of the Mass they followed attendees to the Ohio Statehouse and interrupted the Roe Remembrance, a private companion event held each year since 1974 by Greater Columbus Right to Life. Despite GCRTL holding permits granting us exclusive use of the space, neither Statehouse Officials nor the Ohio State Highway Patrol were willing to remove them or cite them for using their illegal sound systems. As a result, their offensive, vulgar, and obscene commentary was able to nearly drown out our program. Our coverage of the day’s events can be found here, and examples of what they were permitted to scream through our memorial event can be found here.
This kind of behavior was not an effort to convey a message or sway the public. It was intended to fuel their own social media and to frighten and intimidate churches, clergy, and individuals from joining programs like 40 Days for Life and our sidewalk ministry program.
This group and their tactics are familiar to Greater Columbus Right to Life. We’ve endured this behavior for more than six years, and in recent years their behavior has escalated. For example, in the Fall 2019 campaign, GCRTL was joined by 40 Days for Life Chairman of the Board and legal counsel Matt Britton for our midway prayer event. A member of group came to the event, which was held on the public sidewalk. She played sexually explicit music and danced vulgarly in the direction of some students who had come to the event. The students reacted admirably, by holding tight to the large rosary worn by one of the Dominican Sisters and praying together. While this behavior is not a daily occurrence for us, it is episodic and obviously intended to stifle pro-life speech. Greater Columbus Right to Life and 40 Days for Life campaigns across the world are frequently targets of this kind of behavior for the simple reason that we are effective.
While previous iterations of harassment have been limited to public areas, the extremists in January felt emboldened to enter into private property and private events. Yesterday, four members of the group were charged with counts including Disorderly Conduct, Criminal Trespass, and Criminal Trespass. You can read our statement on those charges here. If a group of self-identified “pro-life extremists” stormed inside of an abortion clinic, shouted vulgarities, threatening those inside, and disrupted procedures, there would be a universal repudiation of this kind of behavior by law enforcement, the media, and life-affirming organizations. Abortion advocacy groups, by contrast, have stood up to support both the individuals and the behavior exhibited at the Cathedral and the Statehouse. They are attempting to shift the blame to religious institutions and life-affirming organizations, effectively claiming that by opposing abortion and supporting programs like 40 Days for Life, Greater Columbus Right to Life at the Cathedral deserved what happened. The individuals responsible may call themselves “extremists” but they are employees of and volunteers with abortion providers and abortion advocacy groups that are household names and considered mainstream. After the first attack, the individuals responsible claimed that they will continue to target churches that oppose abortion and pro-life organizations to disrupt Mass.
This reflects the mindset and depravity of abortion advocacy groups, a fact that will be lost on many lukewarm abortion rights supporters because there has been no pushback to this narrative in the public sphere and almost no coverage in the secular media. The meager local coverage has stripped what happened at the Statehouse entirely out of the story and let stand the pro-abortion narrative that this was a “brief and non-violent interruption.”
This is not the way to truth or true justice.
At Greater Columbus Right to Life, we advocate for the dignity of every human life from the moment of conception until natural death. We also stand strong for the protection of free speech, religious freedom, and rights of conscience because they go hand in hand. To threaten religious institutions and organizations that the price of advocating for the unborn is violence and desecration is an abomination and a shameful attempt to stifle free speech and the free exercise of religion. More shameful will be if it is effective.
We have heard from some that they are nervous to come out to the sidewalk with us right now. We have heard from more, however, that they want to come out to the sidewalk to ensure safety in numbers. What abortion extremists may not have expected is that the Christian is willing to embrace suffering for love of others, even those whom we have never met.
These two women and their babies join the hundreds (if not thousands) of women and children in Central Ohio who experience the gift of life because people like you are willing to endure the possibility of a little suffering for love of them and the Gospel. One day, the head of Greater Columbus Right to Life will visit our current vigil site, a Planned Parenthood’s surgical clinic, the way that we recently visited the former site of Ohio’s first abortion clinic.
Our natural response to these evils is prayer and fasting. They are also the two most effective tools we have for ending abortion. If you’ve not yet had the opportunity to join us during this Spring 40 Days for Life campaign, it is not too late. Visit www.gcrtl.org/40-days-for-life to sponsor a day or adopt an hour.
Note: Our executive director recently visited a recently closed abortion clinic in Columbus. The following content and images may be difficult for some individuals to read or view. If you have an abortion in your past and would like to be connected to a healing program, visit our local guide to post-abortion resources. If you are pregnant and would like an alternative to abortion, there are several places to get help. Lastly, if you have taken the first dose of the abortion pill regimen and would like to talk to someone about saving your pregnancy, please call the 24/7 helpline immediately at: 1-877-558-0333.
Just a little over eight years ago, I accepted the position of Executive Director of Greater Columbus Right to Life. I voiced one tangible goal: to see the Founder’s abortion clinic, Ohio’s first abortion clinic, close. When we mumble and groan about the very real challenges of 2020, we should never fail to give thanks for the fact that Ohio’s first abortion clinic shut down.
Most GCRTL supporters are familiar with what happened on January 22, at the Cathedral and the Statehouse. What you may not know is that on January 21, I had a discussion with our landlord about our office space not being available after the lease period was up. The Roe event serves as a memorial, and in that spirit, I drove by Founder’s on my way home from the Statehouse. I nearly drove my car off the road when I saw that it had a “for sale” sign in the yard. The sign says, “Greater Columbus R…ealty,” but every time I drive by, I see “Greater Columbus Right to Life.”
The last few weeks have been remarkably busy. I’ve been working with law enforcement, legal authorities, and State officials regarding what was permitted to happen and handling the overwhelming response to what happened. We’ve kicked off our 40 Days for Life Campaign and preparing to announce our banquet under current pandemic standards. We’ve restarted hybrid sessions of trainings on sidewalk ministry and end-of-life ethics. I’ve also been packing up our office and looking at available commercial real estate listings.
I’ve also been to Founder’s abortion clinic. It’s a place I’ve been to hundreds of times, but for the first (and second) time ever – I went inside.
My first visit to Founder’s was difficult. I scheduled it intentionally for a time and date that I knew I could leave and immediately go to Mass and a Holy Hour. I brought a bottle of Holy Water sourced from the healing well of the 5th Apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe that I brought back from a GCRTL pilgrimage in 2016.
When we walked in, the first thing I saw was that the message “You’re Safe” had been chalked over the door. Given what I saw inside, this could not have been less true.
When we entered, we paused to offer a prayer for all those who had been killed and wounded there – that they find peace and healing. For all who had worked or volunteered there. For all who had stood outside and offered prayers, sung hymns, and offered assistance. We also prayed that we might be guided to do God’s will in this and everything.
In terms of impressions, I had a few. The first is that the inside was one of the most unprofessional looking places I’ve ever been. Almost every room was a mismatch of garish colors. Most of the rooms looked as though they had purchased mis-tints of paint and painted when needed. A few looked to have newer paint in colors making a mockery of femininity – neon green and bright pinks and purples reminiscent of Barbie’s Dream House. Several rooms featured semi-motivational quotes on the wall and gel-cling hearts on the windows. One of the most unintentionally (or possibly intentionally) ironic stickers said, “Life is Beautiful.”
My second impression was that the facility was filthy. I don’t mean the kind of dust that accumulates in a building that has been unused for a few months. I mean the kind of filth that accumulates when people just simply do not care. In several places, condensation had gathered around dirty heating vents, leaving muddy brown drips inches long on the walls. The carpets were soiled beyond belief, especially those in rooms marked “employees only.” The tile was so dirty that our realtor indicated it could not be salvaged.
The building itself appeared rather solid and surprisingly sound. Nonetheless, the overall conditions of how things were maintained as well as the original use means that extensive renovation will be required before any reputable entity takes over the building. Apparently there have been two entities who have expressed an interest in the building: us and some women who said they work in “women’s health.”
I thought it might be useful to walk our readers through the facility. For some, it might be cathartic. For others it will be disturbing. Please note the disclaimer used above: this could be disturbing. Photos have been included at the end in roughly the same order that they are described in this article.
To enter the building, one walks up a few steps under a dark awning and into a dimly lit waiting room. The waiting room is long and narrow. A walled off reception desk and a door separate the waiting room from the rest of the clinic. Aside from the drabness and the dirtiness, it could pass for an ordinary clinic. Once a woman passed through that area, we believe she would normally have been taken upstairs to the second floor for the informed consent portion of her appointment. Ohio law requires that any woman seeking to have an abortion go through a surgical informed consent appointment at least 24 hours before her abortion, whether it is surgical or medical. On the second floor are various consultation rooms, what looks like a conference room, and several heavily secured rooms that look like they may have been used to store medicines or personal property of employees. There is a room marked “laboratory,” with cabinets and shelves but no sink. Another area appears to have been an employee break room with a kitchenette and a large chalk board. A small room was labeled as a records room, and the biggest area appears to have had the doctors’ office and computer and data areas in it. Dr. Schaeffer left behind several professional certificates that are still hanging on the wall. Post-it-notes in at least one consultation room indicate numbers to Pre-term in Cleveland and Women’s Med in Dayton. Both facilities offer later-term procedures and could have been used to refer women who had a pregnancy beyond ten weeks or for whom the abortion pill did not work to a surgical clinic once the facility lost its surgical license. Before Founder’s closed forever it had operated for a few months as a non-surgical clinic.
The first floor was most likely used predominantly for abortion procedures, especially when the clinic was operating surgically. In addition to the long, narrow waiting room, the first floor featured two smaller offices, a suite of restrooms, four procedure rooms, a products of conception room, and another long room designated as a recovery space. There was also an emergency exit door and an entrance into the basement. In the basement, we found abandoned surgical gowns and carts. There was a large modern cistern and a very large amount of cleaning supplies for a facility that did not appear to be dedicated to keeping things clean.
The four procedure rooms were smallish and clustered in a square around a smaller room marked as the “products of conception” room. The overall filth of the conditions meant that you could clearly see the outline of where gynecological tables were positioned as well as the outlines of what were probably either instrument carts or a suction machine. Chains attached to the wall in one room most likely held oxygen and nitrous oxide canisters up for safety. I walked into one of the procedure rooms and I could see what appeared to be blood spatter and caked-on dirt and blood on the floor. I remembered a line from one of the inspection reports, “a heavy layer of dirt and grime coated the table.” The walls throughout the facility were soiled with what looked to be food and drink splatters, especially in the waiting and recovery area. In one of the recovery areas, there appeared to be a partially formed handprint of a rusty brown material. I presumed it was blood, but it may have been another substance. At the doors of the procedure room, in the hallways, and in the recovery rooms there were ammonia inhalants taped to the walls every few feet. At least one of them had what appeared to be droplets of blood on them.
As an aside, it is very surprising that the smelling salts were still set out in a clinic that (allegedly) hadn’t been performing surgical procedures for more than six months before shutting down.
The last room that should be noted in any tour of the clinic is the so-called “Products of Conception” room. It should be noted that our knowledge of what the rooms were used for is based on the nameplates used on the rooms themselves, the blueprints for the building, anecdotal information from previous patients and a few former employees, the obvious equipment in the room, and the common use in other abortion clinics.
Most people probably know the Productions of Conception (or POC) room from stories from people like Abby Johnson or exposés such as those done by the Center for Medical Progress. There is no easy way to state this, but generally a POC room is where the fetal remains and uterine contents are taken following a surgical abortion. In some places, staff may be asked to review the contents to see that all contents of the uterus were removed during the abortion procedure. Leaving behind any content increases the risk of complications like sepsis or hemorrhage. In most rooms, the fetal remains will be emptied from a container, possibly inspected, and prepared for disposal. When Founder’s held a surgical license, a bio-waste company would come on Thursdays and cart out boxes of red bio-waste bags. Those were always sad and sobering days.
I was prepared when I walked into the POC room that it would be sad and sobering. I was not prepared for it to smell so actively of death and decay. This was especially surprising given that the room was not legally used for surgical abortions in at least a year.
The room itself had a small working table immediately across from the door. Next to it was a metal sink that looked very much like a hand-washing sink. Next to it was a device most people are not familiar with, known as a hopper or a sluice. A sluice is used in surgical settings to dispose of liquid medical waste such as blood and maybe urine. In some clinics, the remains of very early terminated pregnancies are reported to be flushed down these systems. There also appeared to be a hose system that very much looked like one of the older-style bedpan rinsing hoses. On the side and opposite walls were several sets of wall shelves. I would imagine that these were used to hold onto blood, urine, and fetal remains until they were disposed of.
It was not easy to walk through the space, nor was it easy to share here. I went to Mass and then spent some time in a Holy Hour, grieving. To be honest, my job is sort of a perpetual mourning for those lost to abortion and those hurt by it. I think that it is important for anyone who is engaged in a pro-life mission to embrace the reality of that grief and work through it on a regular basis. This was different though, and it is hard to explain. I ran into a friend leaving Church. He could tell I was a bit disconcerted, and as I tried to explain why, he proffered a the very manly advice of, “Why be sad about something you can’t change.”
This, of course, was a well-meaning if unhelpful thing to say in that moment. What I could not express at the time but have spent several hours pontificating upon in my head is that grief is an appropriate response to evil. If you believe that evil is real, and if you believe that the unborn person is fully human, what could be more evil than the places where human persons are intentionally targeted for death by the cruelty of abortion? First they are disenfranchised, then dismembered, and finally disposed of and dismissed. I beg to God that I am never not moved to grief by the presence of evil in our world and that I am always moved to respond to it in a way that is guided by His hand.
It may be hard to think of redeeming such a space, but how powerful would that be? Imagine if you will, a life-affirming center with a meaningful memorial to those precious unborn who lost their lives there, a place where moms and dads can pay tribute to their own children lost to the lies of abortion, and a center where we train and equip the next generation of fearless and faithful pro-life advocates and incubate new organizations that form to fill the gaps in what we do. I can see knocking down the walls of the procedure room and turning it into a chapel and a memorial, such as has been done in other places.
Unfortunately, when we learned last June that the clinic was closing, the property had already been listed and was in contract for a cash-offer sale. As the weeks and months passed, I watched the property formerly known as Founder’s, curious to see who would move in. There was no sign of anyone moving in, no sign of anyone taking over, and no indication that the building was being modified or renovated. I did some property searches and found the name of the organization that had bought the building. An online search suggested that the new business may be in some legal trouble, and I wondered briefly if it was no coincidence. I did not investigate it any more until the night of January 22nd when I drove by after the disruption at the Cathedral and the Roe Remembrance and learning that we would need to find a new office location.
It turns out that the business that purchased the property carried on the legacy of breaking the law and taking advantage of the vulnerable. It has a very serious indictment against it, and the building was seized and is being sold by a federal prosecutor.
Purchasing, renovating, and maintaining the building would probably cost between $750,000 and a million dollars. It is not feasible for us without the intervention of some very motivated and generous donors to purchase it on our behalf. In the interim, we will be looking to look for new office location(s) around central Ohio as we continue to grow and serve.
How can you help?
If you are reading this far, I imagine that you have a heart for the pro-life cause. If you are a person with a heart to see Ohio’s first abortion clinic set to life-affirming use or are motivated to invest in some real estate for the cause, give me a call. For others, I invite you to consider how you can use this time of preparation before Easter to give of yourself to meet the pro-life mission. We are actively looking for people who can pray with us, volunteer in another capacity, or partner with us for financial support of our mission. Consider offering up an hour of your time to pray during 40 Days for Life, fast for a day to end abortion, or simply open wide your heart to the beauty of God’s gift of Life.
Note: These photos are the property of Greater Columbus Right to Life and they may not be used in any format without express written approval of the organization.
One of the hallmarks of abusive behavior is to alter the details and blame the victim. This kind of behavior is manipulation and gaslighting. In domestic violence, "I barely touched you, and you forced me to do it; you deserved it."
Yesterday, the Ohio Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (ORCRC), an ecumenical group that supports abortion, did just that in a piece they released on the violence that was perpetrated at the Respect Life Mass and Roe Remembrance.
The ORCRC started their statement, "The Ohio RCRC lament a lot of things, but let us be clear: the momentary and nonviolent interruption of an anti-abortion mass (sic) at St. Joseph's Cathedral in Columbus is not one of them." The statement ends saying, "Until the Diocese of Columbus halts their sustained harassment of abortion clinics, their leaders should expect the same treatment in return and they should not expect sympathy from Ohio RCRC or from the vast majority of the State's population who have consistently and nonviolently stood firm for dignity and bodily autonomy."
You can read the whole piece here. We aren't going to link to it - it is easy enough to change a statement on a blog, and we don't want to send them the traffic, but here it is. If the images are blurry, you can download it here.
First of all, let's be clear. This was not a "momentary and nonviolent" interruption. It was a prolonged, obscenity and blasphemy-laden desecration of the Mass at the spiritual home of nearly 300,000 Catholics in central Ohio. It started with individuals screaming past a security officer, knocking over a table, and running into people. Children were terrified and crying. It was a trespass on the property of the Church. It was likely a violation of the federal FACE act.
To reframe what happened as a "momentary and nonviolet" act is a blatant twisting of the facts and a distortion of the truth. It could only be voiced by those who would deny the violence of abortion - which is the intentional death, dismemberment, and destruction of a human child, by wrapping it in euphemism and promoting it as a right sanctioned by God.
There are numerous false and ridiculous claims made in the statement to justify and give cover to this act of violence and to silence those who hold that respecting the dignity of the person and autonomy of the body as being extended to those inside and outside of the womb. It is manipulative and abusive to tell those who are gathered in peaceful and somber observance that they deserve to have their worship interrupted because they hold views that another person finds absurd or offensive. It is a classic case of victim blaming. It is manipulative. It is also unamerican. No person deserves to have their worship be disrupted and condemned in any church, mosque, temple, or other holy place. No one.
Greater Columbus Right to Life does not speak on the behalf of the Bishop or the Diocese. We do run a sidewalk counseling program in the central Ohio region. To our knowledge, the Diocese does not run a program, but many Catholic (and protestant) churches and their members participate in our program. We do not own the sidewalk, and do hold our volunteers to high standards. We do not use voice amplification devices and we make sure those who do are aware that doing so is against the law. We do not trespass. We also do not agree with the tactics and techniques used by some groups and some individuals. We do not own the sidewalk and we cannot shut down the speech we do not like. None of our volunteers would be tolerated to behave in this way. We have still managed to participate in some 600+ of what we call "turn-aways." That is what we call it when one of our volunteers encounters a woman who is considering an abortion and makes the choice to turn away. If you are motivated to join us, learn how here.
For the ORCRC to itemize their bizarre lamentations to justify this behavior suggests that their organization is based more on changing and situational ethics than any Biblical or theological truth. This is incredibly problematic not only in contemplation of moral theology but also in response the mission of many faiths to change the world in pursuit of justice. We will talk about this a bit more in a moment. The ORCRC implies that it is acceptable to storm into, riot, and shut down a Mass in as a religious and public policy response to those who oppose abortion. This implies that it is acceptable to storm into, riot inside of, and shut down an abortion clinic as a religious and public policy response to those who oppose abortion. This simply is not true.
While it would not be productive to take apart each of these blatantly ridiculous statements put out by the ORCRC, I want to hold two particular statements up to some light. The first is "we lament that the Roman Catholic leaders in our region have shown far more interest in speaking up for the sacredness of their right to enjoy quiet cathedral worship than for the rights of people in our state to have the final say over their own health care." This is an attempt to obscure the real issue here. It is never ok to desecrate a house of worship. It is never ok to terrorize children. It is never ok to threaten people from exercising their religious conscience. It is never ok to threaten someone for their political beliefs. This past summer, many people came to peacefully protest the death of George Floyd. A small number of those protesting turned to vandalism, arson, looting, and violence. Those who objected to this behavior were accused of caring more about glass breaking than the life of Mr. Floyd, as though someone could not care about two things at once. We can, and we should. The foundation of pro-life work is that we can care about the unborn child and the mother. We can exercise our religion and work to pass laws that conform to consciences shaped by our beliefs. The hypocrisy is maddening, but it is more important than that. This type of deeply flawed logic makes it increasingly difficult to function as a republic.
The second statement I would like to hold up is "Whether in the sanctuary of St. Joseph's Cathedral or on the Statehouse steps, we trust that honest words spoken in truth and righteous anger will transform hearts and renew relationships in necessary ways." Again, I restate this. Abortion advocates are welcome to (and frequently do) express their positions in events at the Statehouse. They have the same right as Greater Columbus Right to Life to do so. Their words, however gross, are protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Their ability to hold those events without disruption is governed by the laws of the state and the policies of the Statehouse. Those laws and policies hold that if a person holds an event at the Statehouse those who properly obtain a permit are granted the exclusive right to use that space. They also have the right to exclude those who may try to disrupt it, and that trespass on that right will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Those protections should be extended equally to Ohio RCRC and Greater Columbus Right to Life. This is the very definition of justice - the constant and permanent determination to give each person his or her due. This is why the church and the well-formed soul will speak out against violations of the dignity of every person, whether it be a person who is a victim of racial bias or ageism. The opponents of abortion are willing to have this debate. The advocates shut it down. This is how injustice is perpetuated. Likewise, however flawed a teaching it is to teach that God delights in the death of anyone, the faith leaders in the ORCRC are welcome to preach that from their platforms.
But let us look at the "honest words spoken in truth and righteous anger" that they speak of. I apologize for the language.
"2, 4, 6, 8. This Church Teaches Hate"
"Catholics and pigs"
"Your church is a f*cking hate church"
"So funny that you teach the love of life when you teach people to hate"
"Don't F*cking touch me" (as the police are trying to remove them)
"We hate you"
"If hell was (sic) real, you would burn in it."
"Stop looking like a weirdo, maybe get some Rogaine"
"You look like a prehistoric turtle"
"I will have an abortion if you keep talking to me. I will abort right now"
"I wish my mom had aborted me so I didn't have to deal with your dumb *ss"
"Stay out of or lives and we will stay out of your stupid life."
"The police, like the pigs they are, are defending them"
"Are you guys just bored because you have to protect this dumb building all of the time?"
To an OSHP officer "How many times you jack off in there, actually - where were you January 6th?"
"F*ck you and your permit, b*tch."
"Do you want to eat my p*ssy, because you keep following me like you want to taste me, and I'm confused.. Because I don't like white men. I don't like white people. Especially not pedophiles and pigs"
"you guys are f*cking trash."
"Look at these pigs, oink, oink."
"Fund abortion, not cops"
"What the F*ck are you doing, you ugly *ssed b*tch"
"Time for pig stew"
"This is a man who has to be in control and can't stand when women are the f*ck in control."
This was just a small selection of the content.
To characterize this as "honest words, spoken in truth and righteous anger will transform hearts and renew relationships" is laughable.
Righteous anger is anger that is constrained by reason and oriented toward the good. It is powerful and moves us to virtue. You can hear it echo through the words of those who have brought about great change and human advancement in the dignity of the human person. It motivates and compels us to action. It changes the world.
This was not righteous anger. This was contemptuous and hateful. It is lacking reason and its ends are consuming. It is evil.
The Ohio RCRC does itself or its members who genuinely seek the dignity of the person no service when they confuse good for evil, not just in their ends but in the means by which they seek it.
LOOKING FOR MORE INFO ON THE CATHEDRAL AND ROE ATTACKS?
GCRTL Statement (1/23/21)
Update with LTE and Statehouse Complaint (1/28/21)
Response to RCRC (1/29/21)
An Abomination and A Desecration
Yesterday was the 48th anniversary of Roe v Wade. The Central Ohio community commemorated it in much the same way that we always have. Last Sunday, many churches that we partner with observed Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. Monday through Friday, some of our volunteers went to pray and sidewalk counsel at a local abortion clinic. Yesterday, we participated in the annual Respect Life Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral, celebrated by Bishop Robert J. Brennan and concelebrated by Bishop Edward C. Malesic and several priests. Following the Mass, those in attendance processed over to the West Lawn of the Statehouse where they were joined by others for our event, the Roe Remembrance.
We typically hold the Roe event inside the Atrium. Because of restrictions due to the coronavirus, we held the event outside this year. We applied for and were granted a permit for the West Lawn of the Statehouse. In observance of Statehouse rules, we also applied for and paid for the availability of two Ohio State Highway Patrol officers to provide security. Finally, we arranged for use of Statehouse audio equipment, chairs, etc., knowing that if the day were deemed too cold we would not be able to use that equipment. On Thursday, we were notified that it was going to be too cold, and so we brought the small sound system that GCRTL owns. It is typically able to project to a crowd of 200-300 without difficulty.
As many of you have now heard, a small group of disruptive, hateful, and obscene abortion advocates stormed past the special duty police officer providing security and into the Cathedral during the last part of Bishop Brennan’s homily (a homily is the sermon that follows the reading of the Gospel). They rushed to the front of the Church, shouting explicit and hateful things, frightening families and children, and attempting to reach the altar. As Bishop Brennan noted in his statement, participants in the Mass responded with some seeking to protect the priests and the altar and others kneeling in prayer. The Columbus police responded immediately, and the group was taken outside. Allegedly each had “forgotten” their identification and they were released by the police. Identification will not be difficult, however, as we and our events are frequently the objects of their vulgar, disruptive, violent, and threatening behavior. Please do not think that this is outlier behavior. It is not only tolerated but encouraged by the local abortion industry. One of the group leaders is employed by WHO, a local organization that raises money to pay for abortion; it is reasonable to believe that yesterday’s behavior was used to excite their volunteer and donor base. That same person has been a guest on NARAL Ohio’s podcast and been highlighted by local media for her social justice advocacy work. I hope, but am not confident, that these organizations and the media will immediately repudiate and disentangle themselves from people who would knowingly and intentionally violate the sacred space of a Church during worship.
I left the Mass just after the start of the homily, exiting at the side and (probably) not seeing the group, to set up the Roe Remembrance. From a block away, I saw the numerous squad cars at the Cathedral and communicated with someone inside who called me to let me know what happened. I immediately notified our Ohio State Highway Patrol team of what had happened at the Cathedral and that because the group was not arrested they would likely proceed to the Statehouse to continue their disruption. Because we at GCRTL are very familiar with their behavior, I let the officer know that as I understood it, our permit granted us exclusive use of the grounds, that if protestors want to stand in the background and hold signs, we should let them, but if they became disruptive, I would like them to be removed from the permitted area of the Statehouse grounds and removed to the public sidewalks. There was no dissent to that plan voiced, and I went back to preparations.
Right before the program began, the group attempted to block the access to the West Lawn by blocking the path. I notified the OSHP officer, who dispersed them. Then they began running through our event with voice amplifications and loud noisemakers (sirens, etc.). I asked the OSHP that they be removed, and was told that wouldn’t be possible but that they would be gathered in a grassy area and kept quiet. We began the program a little late, and they used the loud sirens and voice amplification to shout obscene, vulgar, and demeaning things. At one point, they laughed that their sound system was louder than ours. I approached a OSHP officer and noted that Columbus City ordinances prohibit the use of voice amplification that can be heard more than 50 feet and that they should be removed from the grounds we had been granted a permit for. The patrolman indicated that they had not been enforcing the noise ordinance since the summer protests, that they could not remove the group, and that his supervisor was now on scene and talking to them. I was very disappointed in this determination, as I do not think it accurately reflects the terms of the permit we were granted and instead was more applicable to spontaneous or planned, but not permitted, protests. We paid no small amount to host the event at the Statehouse going through the proper channels. I will, however, address that situation separately with the Capital Square Review and Advisory Board. Our streaming team notified me that because of our microphone system feeding directly to video, those watching via the stream could hear our speakers clearly. Our in-person participants had to listen extra carefully and perhaps did not catch every word, but we were able to go forward, ignoring the chaos and hate and violence of the world.
I was disappointed that we were not able to have them removed from an event, an event which is not a rally and not a protest but a somber memorial of the unborn who have died. This was, in essence, a eulogy that was interrupted for over and hour by loud and vulgar protestors. I do want to commend the officers, who took a great deal of abusive and belittling behavior from the protestors calmly and without malice. You may have noticed that their shouts and signs were equally against pro-life activities, faith, and the police. This has also been a consistent theme of their group and organization.
I took some time last night to rest, to pray, to reflect, and to respond to the many people who reached out, either to express shock and outrage, to see if we are ok, to volunteer, and even to donate.
Now, I want to share a few things for those whose hearts are troubled today.
First: Watch our stream of the event. You can see and hear some of the disruptions happening. You should see what it is that they most desperately wanted to drown out and disrupt. If you have original footage or photographs that you are willing to let GCRTL use to document what happened at the Cathedral or the Statehouse, you can email them to us.
Second: I think it is very tempting for many of us to go down the “rabbit hole” to find these people, consume their content on social media, and even share the despicable nature of what they do. There is plenty of it; they are proud of what they do. My recommendation is that you do not do so. The practical reason is that they enjoy and thrive on the attention that their behavior gets. They also profit from it as your searching them out and sharing them gives them more social media visibility and reach. On a more spiritual level, I have long told my volunteers not to be tempted to consume their evil content for the peace of their own souls. They openly profess witchcraft and the occult, and their content is not only shaped by it, but they casually drop references subtle and explicit. Don’t be tempted to open yourself up to that by the desire for more knowledge or seeking to consume the drama. At one point in my speech, they were screaming “Elizabeth, Betty, Beth” hoping that hearing my name would distract me. Don’t let evil distract you.
Third: Don’t back down. They have two goals. The first is to gain infamy and the second is to scare the faithful pro-life into backing down. This was not a protest designed to rally the pro-choice community, it was not geared at passing legislation or promoting public policy, it was not an invitation to the undecided to join them, and it wasn’t a response to an incident. It was intended to terrorize people into staying away from pro-life activities. Unfortunately, it has been somewhat effective. There are a great number of people who have stopped coming to pray and counsel because this is what they face, not only at pro-life events, but in any public setting. For example, another pro-life leader was with his children at a local park and one of these people harassed and filmed him and his children. The good news is that the more people who are prayerfully and peacefully praying, the less likely they are to act out in obscene and ridiculous ways. If you would like information on our sidewalk counseling program, you can sign up here. For our part, we are also not backing down. If anything, we are more confirmed in our efforts to continue with vigorous legal strategy and prayer.
Fourth: Hold those that violate our institutions and churches accountable and insist that the media hold anyone who violates and desecrates accountable. Christians are often quick to forgive this kind of behavior. In general, that is a good thing. We should pray for them and forgive them, irrespective of if they seek forgiveness and prayers. That, however, does not mitigate our responsibility to hold them accountable for willful, organized, and intentional actions that harm or terrorize. The group has publicly proclaimed that they will continue doing this type of thing because it worked. Greater Columbus Right to Life has continued to document interactions and we have made numerous police reports about unsafe, illegal, and inappropriate behavior by pro-abortion activists. We have also worked with legal counsel to respond to and defend our volunteers from harassment and unequal treatment. This can be an expensive and time-consuming prospect. If you have original footage or photographs that you are willing to let GCRTL use to document what happened at the Cathedral or the Statehouse, you can email them to us. If you experienced any physical contact from one of them, please also let us know.
Fifth: Pray. Fast.
On a personal note, over the past few hours, there have been several things that have come to mind. One that is sticking is the words of Jesus in Matthew 24. Usually, in times like these many of us hold fast to Jesus’ words that the world will hate us for the sake of God. Indeed, it is hard not to think of these words when a group storms the Cathedral screaming “I hate you.”
While we welcome any person to join us in pro-life work, I am deeply committed to my own Catholic faith, and a majority of our volunteers are Catholic. I’ve been trying to process my own thoughts and feelings on what happened yesterday, as a pro-life organization leader, as a Catholic person who loves her faith, and as a parishioner at the Cathedral. Some recent restrictions due to the virus and health notwithstanding, I attend Mass 6-7 days a week at the Cathedral. I thought it appropriate here to share them, but with a note that these are my views and sentiments. My initial response to those who are upset or shocked by what has happened is that they have, unfortunately, experienced a small sample of what we regularly experience. It is probably a testament to the way that Bishop Brennan has been outspoken on the need to defend the dignity of all life, including the unborn, that he and the Cathedral and the Respect Life Mass were targeted this year as well. I have great respect for Bishop Brennan, and I appreciate his professional and personal support and prayers. My second response was a frustration that for whatever reason, likely revised city policies on arrests, the perpetrators were not arrested and charged. They instead were released to come target our event, and they have publicly indicated they will continue to target Masses for protest.
Above all of this has been my horror at seeing the Cathedral, a sacred space, desecrated by such evil and hate. It is a small consolation that the perpetrators did so during the homily (sermon) and not the consecration. However, it is also my observation that the Bishop’s homily, while beautiful, went a little longer than normal, and I wonder if the disruption was plotted and intended to disturb the consecration and mercifully did not.
Jesus’ words in Matthew 24, verse 15, speak of the “abomination of desolation.” I have always understood that Jesus’ words were most likely referring to something known to his audience, words taken from the prophet Daniel to describe the Greek King Antioch’s replacing the Jewish twice daily temple sacrifices in Jerusalem with pagan sacrifice. Other traditions have different interpretations of that, and I will leave the theology debates here to the theologians and stick with my own understanding.
This obviously is the exact opposite of what happened at the Cathedral. The faithful were gathered for a Mass lovingly and faithfully concelebrated by two Bishops and several priests with a special pro-life intention. The Respect Life Mass is an opportunity for prayer that hard hearts are softened, a prayer for those who mourn from a past abortion, a prayer for those who have been lost to an abortion, and even a hopeful reminder that we can trust in God’s promises. What happened, however, was an abomination. It was a desecration. Today, many are angry and mourning not just the weight that we share in because of the legacy of Roe v Wade in our broken world, but because the space in which we profess our faith and profess our grief was desecrated by evil and destructive forces.
Our faith will see us through. My Church has long embraced that it, and we, will suffer in this world. It has also told us that our suffering is not without purpose or merit, and that we can lift up that suffering for the salvation of souls. If, like me, your hearts have broken seeing the vulgarity and violence and evil that carried out the attack on the Cathedral and the Roe Remembrance, please allow them also to be broken for the ultimate victims of that evil: our unborn brothers and sisters who, imago Dei, bear the image and likeness of God. Let our hearts break, too, for the fact that evil continues to carry out the carnage of abortion each day and that it is now the moral and policy position of the President of the United States who claims his Catholic faith as he justifies an expansion of abortion in the US and abroad. In our brokenness, let us then resolve, through prayer and fasting, to continue to work to end this great evil and to soften hearts hardened by hate and vitriol.
I have long championed that Columbus should hold a Eucharistic Procession for the end the evil of abortion. For those who may not be familiar with what this means, a very simplified explanation is that Catholics believe that Christ is truly present: body, blood, soul, and divinity, when bread and wine are consecrated during the Mass. We call this the Eucharist or Communion. A Eucharistic Procession, then, is a prayer and procession whereby we take Jesus, present in the form of the host, to another place. Usually it begins and ends at a church or chapel. Note: If you are interested in debating this topic or understanding it better, I would request that we defer those conversations to my free time our of respect for our pro-life mission.
In 2020, I shared this hope with Bishop Brennan. I made this request on the behalf of my Catholic volunteers and the community who are daily attacked by evil for our pro-life work in the way that was made visible to many of you this week. This is no small undertaking, and I trust the discernment of Bishop Brennan in his discernment of the appropriateness of this request. This is obviously something that would appeal more to those who are Catholic, both on our team and the greater Columbus community. I constantly look for ways to invite more faiths to be united in our effort to end abortion, and I am open to ideas from other faith backgrounds; if you have one, send it my way. Several years ago, we worked with the Jewish pro-life association who sent a leader to pray the Jewish prayer of the dead. It was powerful to all gathered.
It is not uncommon to re-consecrate a sacred space after it is attacked. I have already heard from some that they are urging the Bishop do so at the Cathedral. I do not know the guidelines for that to happen, but if it does, I would faithfully attend. I do know that come tomorrow I plan to be sitting in my normal pew at the Cathedral, seeking spiritual healing for the events of this past week, asking forgiveness for the things I have done and failed to do, asking for the strength and the wisdom and healing in the days to come, and worshipping an all-powerful, all-knowing, and always-present God. I hope that each of you are able to do the same in your own churches. Then, on Monday, I will get back to work to continue protecting the most vulnerable.
Photos from the Respect Life Mass or the Roe Remembrance, can be accessed here.
LOOKING FOR MORE INFO ON THE CATHEDRAL AND ROE ATTACKS?
GCRTL Statement (1/23/21)
Update with LTE and Statehouse Complaint (1/28/21)
Response to RCRC (1/29/21)
2019 Ohio Abortion Statistics Released
If you have not heard, Ohio’s abortion statistics report was issued today. Each fall, Ohio’s Department of Health issues abortion statistics for the year prior. The statistics look at various demographic information like where the abortion was performed and where the mother who had the abortion resides. It tracks the methods of abortion –distinguishing between surgical and non-surgical abortions, and it also breaks down types of procedures within the larger subset. It looks at things like the mother’s race and ethnicity, her number of reported prior abortions or live births, her education, her age, and her marital status. You can review a copy of the 2019 Ohio Abortion Statistics online here (warning – it is a larger pdf file). Abortion figures are available to the detail of zip code.
Ohio Abortion numbers
In 2018, Ohio abortions dropped by 468 procedures statewide, from 20,893 abortions in 2017 to 20,425 in 2018. Last year, Ohio abortions dropped by 323 procedures statewide from 20,425 to 20,102. This means that last year, just over 55 babies died each day from abortion in Ohio. Statewide, about 39% of all abortions were conducted non-surgically, most by the abortion pill. Once again, most abortions were performed in an ambulatory surgical facility (18,707), while 1,356 were performed in a non-surgical clinic, and 39 were performed in a hospital. Statewide, the largest number of abortions were performed on women ages 25-29, and once again African American women were disproportionately likely to have an abortion. Among Ohioans who reported their race, white women made up 46.1% of all abortions, black women made up 45.9%, and American Indian, Pacific Islander, and multi-racial made up .3%, 3.6%, and 4.1%. Eighty-two percent of women having an abortion report being not married (single, separated, divorced, or widowed). About 10.5% were married, and 7% did not report their marital status. Ninety-five abortions were reported as being performed after 21 weeks of gestation. Approximately 6% reported Hispanic ethnicity.
Local abortion numbers
Ohio measures abortion statistics in two ways. One is by the total number performed in the county and one is by the number of abortions performed on women living in a county. In Ohio, known abortion clinics exist in only a few counties: Franklin (2), Cuyahoga (2), Lucas (1), Summit (1), Montgomery (1), and Hamilton (1). Each year, a few abortions are generally reported outside of those settings. We generally presume that those occur in a hospital setting, but we cannot know for sure. As pro-life people, our goal is not only to see the total number of abortions decline, but also the number of abortions occurring in our community and the number performed on women living in our communities. In last year’s statistics, we had about six months with two abortion clinics that performed surgical and medication abortions, about a month where only one clinic was open that performed surgical and medication abortions, about two and a half months when one dual and one medication-only clinic was open, and about two and a half months when one dual and two medication only clinics were open. In 2019, the statistics reflect having all three clinics open: one offering both types of abortions and two offering medication only. Thus, while it is a disappointment, it is not a surprise that abortions slightly increased in central Ohio. In addition, we tend to see fairly cyclical process of large drops over a few years and then a small increase. There are two ways to end abortion: the demand side and the supply side, and we need to work on both.
In 2018, there were 3706 abortions that were performed in central Ohio, or about 10 each day. Last year, there were 3933 abortions performed in central Ohio. That means 76 each week and just under 11 each day. That is an increase of 227 from the year before, but still a decrease of nearly 30% over the past ten years. Last year, nearly 70% of the abortions performed in Central Ohio were non-surgical, and almost all of them were performed by the abortion pill. Given that two additional pill-only clinics were available last year, this is not surprising, but it is concerning. Just four years ago, medication abortion was less than 5% of all abortions happening in our community. It also indicates that we have a great need to increase awareness and advocacy of the abortion pill reversal program. GCRTL Sidewalk Counselors are working to make sure that every woman who enters an abortion clinic has an opportunity to learn about abortion pill reversal. This continues to be highly critical work.
Looking at the counties that make up the GCRTL area, we saw two counties (Fairfield and Union) with decreases and six with increases (Delaware, Franklin, Licking, Madison, Morrow, and Pickaway). However, we always remind our communities that this is just a snapshot of one statistic, and it does not reflect the whole picture of what we see in the community. Many areas of central Ohio are growing at a rapid pace, and year-to-year numbers can fluctuate quite significantly. Part of the reason that we look at these numbers is to know where to suggest programs and projects. In the next few months, we will be updating our abortion rate project which looks at abortion compared to population and live births. That said, we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.
As always, we drew our figures from statistics provided by the Ohio Department of Health and note that these figures only include induced abortions reported to the Ohio Department of Health. From time to time, we or they may need to update our numbers because of data entry or other problems. There may be some duplication caused by failed medical abortions that were later performed as surgical. The numbers also include attempted abortions that failed and resulted in a live birth through abortion pill failure or abortion pill reversal. The figures do not include any abortions that were not reported to the Ohio Department of Health, either because they doctor failed to report or because the pills were obtained illegally. These statistics may also include a small number of pregnancies that were lost in a procedure taken to preserve a mother’s life, even if abortion was not the intended or wanted result. Finally, we often get some questions regarding how contraceptives or the morning after pill are counted in this report. While many forms of contraception and the morning after pill contain a mechanism that could prevent a fertilized egg from establishing in the uterine lining, the Ohio Abortion statistics only include those established pregnancies which are knowingly terminated.
It was no accident
It is a great day, 47 years in the making, to see Founder’s closed permanently. You may remember that just two years ago, Founder’s closed temporarily as the clinic owners and management were in conflict. That ended with the management opening a new clinic (Your Choice). Founder’s reopened several months later. I continue to pray for the men and women who owned, worked at, volunteered with, or sought services at Founder’s Women’s Health, and I know that I am joined by many in the community.
Note: If any former abortion workers, volunteers, or supporters are reading this and would like to talk to someone, you are welcome to give us a call and we will listen or refer you to help. We also know that there are many women and men who are hurting following their own abortions and news of Founder’s closing may bring that pain forward. Help, forgiveness, and healing are available. You can find free, confidential help by contacting our office or visiting our website.
While we celebrate this day, I want to make it very clear that we are not here by accident; we are here because of countless people in our community who have prayed, fasted, offered up sufferings and sacrifices, and served those most in need. Our goal has always been to give women a better choice and end abortion, and we have made tremendous strides in that goal. As more and more women have received help and support, we have seen clinic after clinic that provide and promote abortions close in our community – not because of changes in laws and not because of changes in the courts, but because of changes in hearts and culture.
Seven years ago, I stepped down from the Board of Trustees to accept the position of executive director. At that time, we made the strategic but surprising decision to step back from political action to focus on building up individuals, families, churches, and communities. I am not one to see signs everywhere, but my first event as ED of GCRTL was the “Roe Rally” on the 40th anniversary of Roe V Wade. I remember feeling a great heaviness at the role I was taking on, but also feeling hopeful – mindful of the Biblical symbolism of 40 on that 40th Anniversary.
I decided – with the brash naivete that can only come from inexperience, that my goal at GCRTL was to see Founder’s – Ohio’s first abortion clinic, close. My predecessor started a sidewalk program that met mostly on weekends, and I decided that we would instead build a team to cover the clinics every day and every hour that Founder’s was open and then every day and every hour we could cover the other clinics. The plan was crazy, naïve, and impossible.
You may have heard the line, “We plan and God laughs…” Well, within my first week in this role, Complete Healthcare for Women, which at the time performed abortions, announced an expansion into Pickerington. Immediately, we rallied the local community and we continued our dedication to prayer, fasting, and counseling, focusing on the Pickerington and Cleveland Avenue locations. At that time, we also began identifying the dirty secrets of the abortion industry and making them public. By the end of 2014, Complete Healthcare for Women ceased doing abortions, one of the owners of Founder’s was indicted on charges of child pornography, and numerous cases of medical malpractice and filthy conditions were brought to light. We started encountering more and more women who would choose life when presented with prayerful, peaceful activism and options. Year after year, abortions declined significantly in central Ohio, and most years our region led the state in reductions. Specifically, we have reduced abortions by 40%. There have been 13,042 fewer abortions that have happened in central Ohio than had our numbers remained static at 2012 levels. Comparably, statewide, the decline has only been 20% and the total state reduction in abortions has been 25,470. This is a jaw-dropping impact.
In the past seven years, there have been many moments where I have wondered if what we are doing is worth it. I’ve seen great volunteers leave for other missions, I’ve seen great volunteers get burned out, and I’ve seen casual volunteers turn into all-stars. I’ve cried with women hemorrhaging after their abortions, with women who regret their abortion, and with fathers who desperately wanted their children, and I’ve wept at the cold and hard-heartedness of those who are intent on abortion. We have been harassed and cursed by abortion advocates. We’ve seen division and squabbling and political factions. I’ve made mistakes by the handful. It hasn’t all been bad. I’ve met the most incredible, faith-filled people who give me more grace and more benefit of the doubt than I deserve. Together, we’ve celebrated women who turned away from their abortion appointments and met babies whose families credit our team with their babies’ lives. We’ve celebrated legislative and legal victories, and weathered through disappointments. But still, sometimes I wonder, has it been worth it?
Friends, it is worth it. Seven years ago, I felt the heaviness of 40 years of abortion and the toll it has taken on our community and our country. I still feel it. However, it is not lost on me that seven years after all of you stepped up to support my crazy, naïve, impossible plan to see Ohio’s first abortion clinic close, it has, because all things are possible with God and this amazing community striving to do His work.
So today I’m going to ask you to back me in another crazy, naïve, impossible (but totally possible) plan. Planned Parenthood’s abortion clinic on East Main Street opened its doors in 1999. We’ve already shown that a steady campaign of prayer, peaceful presence, public information, and offering life-affirming assistance can close Ohio’s first abortion clinic; now let’s show up until we close Ohio’s biggest abortion clinic.
We have a great model here in central Ohio; now all we need is your help. I said that the symbolism has not been lost on me. After 47 years in business, Ohio’s first abortion clinic closed during my 7th year work anniversary, but it also closed 7 days before my 40th birthday. I’m thankful to God for the most perfect gift He could have sent me.
But I’m asking you to consider helping me to celebrate my birthday by helping others to celebrate theirs. I’m asking for 40 new prayer partners and sidewalk ministers to step up to help me with this crazy, naïve, and impossible (but totally possible) plan. Our world is standing with Planned Parenthood, but for my birthday, I’m asking you to stand outside of Planned Parenthood. Sign up to join our sidewalk team, find another volunteer role, or support our work with a donation. Because with God, all things are possible!