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.