GCRTL Responds to Columbus’ Million Dollar Abortion Buyout
COLUMBUS – This morning, Columbus City Council members and their allies in the abortion advocacy community announced advancement of legislation that they describe as:
Columbus City Council, along the mayor’s office, continue their bad leadership in pursuit of an extreme, out-of-touch, and highly partisan agenda that prioritizes abortion over the safety of women and the needs of thousands of central Ohio families and dedicates thousands of taxpayer dollars to fund the death and destruction of unborn children.
While violent crime escalates city-wide and our police force continues to dwindle, Columbus is announcing again today that it does not care about the health and safety of our community or the rule of law and will be targeting pregnancy centers that help thousands of pregnant women in our region every year. City Council announced in one breath it does not have the resources to dedicate to escalating community violence while also announcing it will giving more than a million dollars to fund abortion and groups like Planned Parenthood, the Abortion fund of Ohio, Pro-Choice Ohio and the Ohio Women’s Alliance.
So-called pro-choice groups should laud the work of pregnancy centers - places that work every day to tell women who think their best or only choice is abortion that there is help available. Pregnancy centers routinely provide free pregnancy tests, confirmation of pregnancy for programs like WIC, ultrasounds, referrals to low-and-no-cost medical care and social safety net services, parenting education, material aid, and emotional support. In many cases, this empowers women to choose life for their children and work to lift their families out of poverty and dependency. They are not there to trick or deceive women – women are smart, courageous, and resilient.
Please contrast this with what happens when women walk into an abortion clinic and are offered state mandated health information and an abortion. No other help, and no other choices. This is an offer of death and not the promise of freedom and equality that women deserve.
Medical Emergencies Under Ohio's Heartbeat Law
We are receiving dozens of questions about Ohio’s Heartbeat law in response to online assertions that Ohio’s heartbeat law will make it illegal to resolve an ectopic pregnancy or to perform surgical intervention in the case of a woman who has suffered a miscarriage or other medical emergency. Neither of these assertions is true and citations to the opposite are at best dangerously misinformed and at worst intentionally fabricated to manipulate the emotions and distort the discussion about abortion – the discussions about abortion that the Dobbs case rightfully returned to state legislatures and the citizens themselves.
Discussion of this issue is also complicated because we often do not define terms. Abortion can have different meanings in different contexts. For example, in the medical field, “abortion” generally means any pregnancy that does not result in a live birth. Sometimes the words “spontaneous” or “induced” or “inevitable” are applied to differentiate. We’ve received many calls from women who are heartbroken or infuriated to learn that their miscarriage is reflected in their medical report as a “natural” or “spontaneous” abortion. When we talk about abortion in the field of ethics, we often refer to a direct action intentionally taken to end a known pregnancy. Legal definitions vary from place to place and are often a combination of the two concepts. This adds confusion to a complicated issue, for sure. While there are numerous examples of medical terminology and ethical terminology and legal terminology differing from each other and the common use of those same words in our everyday life, it certainly adds to the difficulty that we have in discussing abortion.
So, let’s talk about how abortion is defined in Ohio’s law and show why assertions that Ohio’s laws on abortion do not allow for intervention in medical emergencies, miscarriages, and ectopic pregnancies are incorrect.
First of all – take a look at Ohio’s definition of abortion. It can be found here: https://codes.ohio.gov/ohio-revised-code/section-2919.11.
2919.11 says, “As used in the Revised Code, "abortion" means the purposeful termination of a human pregnancy by any person, including the pregnant woman herself, with an intention other than to produce a live birth or to remove a dead fetus or embryo. Abortion is the practice of medicine or surgery for the purposes of section 4731.41 of the Revised Code.”
This is how Ohio law defines abortion – not just in the chapter or the section, but everywhere in Ohio’s revised code. This automatically means that in Ohio surgical intervention in the case of a miscarriage is not defined as an abortion. This also means that if a woman is in a medical emergency and doctors take emergency efforts with the intent to save her life – that still is not an abortion under Ohio law, even if the baby does not survive.[i]
The exception is clarified over and over again in Ohio law, including in the so-called “Heartbeat” provisions. There are several sections that deal with the heartbeat standard, but the one that is helpful here is 2919.193. Specifically, section B states, “(B) Division (A) of this section does not apply to a physician who performs or induces the abortion if the physician believes that a medical emergency, as defined in section 2919.16 of the Revised Code, exists that prevents compliance with that division.”
So then we go to 2919.16, which is linked above, and to line F, which says:
“(F) "Medical emergency" means a condition that in the physician's good faith medical judgment, based upon the facts known to the physician at that time, so complicates the woman's pregnancy as to necessitate the immediate performance or inducement of an abortion in order to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or to avoid a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman that delay in the performance or inducement of the abortion would create.”
But don’t close out your tab to 2919.16 yet, we’ll come back to it in a minute.
At this point, we’ve covered surgical resolution of miscarriage and responses to medical emergencies for mom. So now, let’s turn to ectopic pregnancy.
We’ve gotten good at knowing to define things, so first - what is an ectopic pregnancy? An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that implants outside of the uterus – usually in the Fallopian tubes. As many as 2% of all pregnancies are ectopic. Some will resolve on their own, but others will need medical intervention. When the baby develops in a place like the Fallopian tube, it will eventually rupture. The baby will not survive, and the mom is also at high risk of serious complication and death.
There are three ways an ectopic pregnancy is generally treated. Two are surgical and one is non-surgical. None of these are considered abortions under Ohio law. Not only are they just different procedures, but even if they were defined as abortions they would be a response to a medical emergency. They also more than likely would fall under section K of 2919.16 (we said to keep your tab open!). That section adds some clarification to what a medical emergency consists of, and it says:
(K) "Serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function" means any medically diagnosed condition that so complicates the pregnancy of the woman as to directly or indirectly cause the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function. A medically diagnosed condition that constitutes a "serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function" includes pre-eclampsia, inevitable abortion, and premature rupture of the membranes, may include, but is not limited to, diabetes and multiple sclerosis, and does not include a condition related to the woman's mental health.”
If you are still worried, Ohio also specifically exempts termination of an ectopic pregnancy from its prohibitions related to funding abortions in section 5106.51, which includes:
“(F) Nothing in this section denies reimbursement for drugs or devices to prevent implantation of the fertilized ovum, or for medical procedures for the termination of an ectopic pregnancy.”
There simply is zero reason to scare women into believing that in Ohio or anywhere else, overturning the Dobbs decision is going to result in women being prohibited from life-saving medical treatment due to an ectopic pregnancy or any other medical emergency or from removing an unborn but already deceased baby from a mother’s uterus. And history shows that is true – women with miscarriages beyond Ohio’s past gestational abortion limits have been able to receive surgical intervention after miscarriage and stillbirth.
Perhaps we need to ask – why is the crowd that is demanding publicly funded abortion on demand at all stages of pregnancy trying to tell you that Dobbs means that pregnant women in Ohio (and elsewhere) will be denied medical treatment in the case of medical emergencies? This is pure scare-tactic sensationalism designed to instill anger, fear, and hatred.
You don't need to respond to every instance that someone is wrong on the internet. Sometimes it is better just to keep on scrolling or to reach out privately and let them know that the content they shared is misleading, but if you get into a discussion and need some facts to overcome fear - here you go.
[i] One example used a lot here is pre-eclampsia. If a woman is in physical danger from pre-eclampsia, the medical intervention to save her life is to deliver the baby. Baby should be provided appropriate emergency care, but we also know it may not be possible to survive depending on its general condition, gestation, etc. This is completely different than inserting surgical instruments into the uterus to dismember and suction out the baby’s remains. This is a principle that is widely established in medicine and ethics called “Double Effect.”
Pro Life Ohioans: Now is Our Time
By now, almost everyone has heard about the leaked first-draft copy of the majority opinion U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Dobbs case. While the text has been authenticated, it is not the final decision, and it is subject to change (and may have been changed before the draft was leaked). There is much speculation on the leak, but to date nothing substantial. The draft opinion is extremely well-written. It says that there is no national Constitutional right to abortion and clarifies that states can set policies for the protection of unborn children, the regulation of abortion and abortion clinics, and enact full abolition of abortion. While some may wish that the decision had gone further in declaring the personhood status of the child, that question was not before the court.
It will be tempting, given the situation and the circumstances of this leak, to give way to excitement over a victory, fret about procedure and efforts to influence the Court, decry the decision as not going far enough, or spend hours reacting to public sentiment via social or conventional media. My encouragement, however, is that while each of these things has a place in our response, we should continue to always pray and never give up, never lose heart, and never grow weary in our efforts, because Pro-Life Ohioans: now is our time.
Now is our time to redouble efforts to support vulnerable women, children, and families in need. Returning abortion regulation to the states will not immediately amend the brokenness of our culture and its detrimental impact on families and openness to life. Instead, let us take up the mandate to put our hearts where our mouths have been and to use them to proclaim the absolute dignity of human life with our every word, action, and effort. Let us be vocal advocates that while government programs may have a place, it is also our responsibility to engage and act at an individual level.
Now is our time to respond with compassion and mercy to the generations of women and men who are scared, hurt, and angry because they believe that the success and equality of women can only be bought by blood – and not the blood of the Lamb, but by the blood of their own children. For those who believe that the path of success is paved with the remains of aborted children, we have an opportunity to show that this is a lie. Abortion is often an attempt to respond to very real problems faced by women and families. Instead of mocking them, inciting tensions, or amplifying their rage, let us work to end injustice and inequality by tearing down the structures that deny women and families flexibility and accommodation. Abortion props up a system that pits women against their unborn children and often makes them choose between their babies’ lives and their educations, jobs, and overall chances at success.
Now is our time to speak and act with clear-headedness, truth, and gentleness at the misguided notion that abortion is the compassionate answer to crimes like rape and incest. Rape is without a doubt a violent assault, and we do not turn a blind eye to its severity and consequences. However, pregnancy is not a punishment for women who engage in sexual activity without “permission” of the culture. To say that a woman who is the victim of rape “deserves” an abortion but the woman who is the victim of domestic violence or who engaged in a one-night stand does not ignores the absolute humanity of the child. It fails to consider that most victims of rape are assaulted by someone they know. Especially in the case of minors or victims of offenses such as incest and human trafficking, abortion can be used to cover-up repeated crimes. Even today, women who report sexual assault have abortions in roughly the same percentages as women who have abortions for other types of unplanned pregnancy: pushing abortion exceptions and calling for abortion for women who have been sexually assaulted does not consider their actual feelings, emotions, and needs after violence. It perpetuates the lie that women need only “put behind them” violence to heal from it. It is more likely to subject women who chose life and the children conceived in rape or incest to judgement, ridicule, and dehumanization. Instead of diminishing the egregious nature of violence and sexual assault, let us come together to demand justice for victims of sexual assault, access to healing, and support for those who struggle.
Now is the time to speak out against the ableism that says children with possible or likely medical needs have lives that are not worth living. Let us reject the idea that the parental instinct to protect a child is best met by euthanizing that child. Instead, let us have honest conversations about prenatal hospice and maternal care and recognize the sorrow families feel at miscarriage rather than place the emotional burden of taking direct action to end the life of a child on the parents’ shoulders. Let’s put an end to the increasingly prevalent idea that children and adults with profound health and medical needs have lives that are not worth living and extend compassion and humanity to those who are aged, infirm, and otherwise vulnerable.
Now is the time to recognize that the American Church has its greatest challenge and opportunity to engage in the new evangelism by persisting in the loving truth that we are stewards and not owners of the lives God has entrusted to us. Let us proclaim that everyone who has ever been or will ever be was known, beloved, and made in the image of God; that Jesus Christ has conquered all death and sin because of that love; and that we may not understand all of the trials and sufferings that have entered into this world and we may not know that time or the place or the way that it will happen, but that God has and will overcome all of the sufferings of this world. Let us speak clearly that our concern for the unborn child comes from a genuine regard for the dignity of the human person.
When I look at the pro-life movement, I see people who are worn and weary from five decades of activism. I see new faces full of ideas and enthusiasm. I see people of diverse backgrounds and faiths and of no faith whatsoever. I see people who want to join us, but who are afraid that their gender or their beliefs disqualify them. I hear from people repulsed by abortion but who believe it is the only compassionate position. I see the walking wounded hurting from past abortions. Let us unite in the churches and in the public square and recruit others to our cause.
Now is our time, pro-life Ohioans, to acknowledge that while we want nothing more than this fight to be over it is time to lovingly persist. In the words of the inimitable Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, “We know the justice of our cause, we trust in the faithfulness of his promise, and therefore we shall not weary, we shall not rest.”
This article was originally printed in The Catholic Times.
Ohio responds to Formula Scarcity
Like many of you, we have heard about the formula supply chain problems and the resulting scarcity. While we believe strongly in supporting breastfeeding moms, the reality is that is not possible in every case. Our philosophy: fed is best.
Some infants, be they those who are in an adoption or foster care placement, babies with medical needs, babies whose mothers need to supplement feedings, babies whose mothers work in places that can or do not accommodate breastfeeding need formula. When formula is not available - be that because manufacturers stop producing, when store shipments are held up, when stores don't have employees to stock the shelves, moms and dads who use formula worry. We know that this problem disproportionately affects rural families, those living in or near poverty, and single moms at a disproportionate level; not only are these families more likely to rely on formula for feeding but they are also less likely to be able to drive to multiple stores if their formula is not available. For many infants, especially those with specialty formula needs, caretakers can't just swap out formulas. For families receiving supplemental nutritional assistance in programs like WIC (Women Infants Children), participants are generally limited to brands and sizes set by state formularies.
We know that this is an issue for families. We are encouraging everyone to contact their Congressional and US Senate representatives about the problems you are facing to ask them to put pressure on the administration to resolve the problem.
We have also reached out to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine via the Ohio Department of Health to learn what the state of Ohio is doing. The Ohio Department of Health has been and is actively addressing the issue. Here are some of the things they are doing:
We have asked for clarification if there is further work being done to address the entire community or if state coordination extends only to WIC. Once we have clarified, we will update this post.
Further, ODH is recommending that families impacted by the shortage
We have also reached out to other organizations including pregnancy help centers to gauge what the are hearing from clients, what formula (if any) they are able to distribute, and if they or any clients are interested in helping to speak to local reporters to highlight the problem.
We spoke with one mom earlier this week who did an interview with the Ohio Statehouse News Bureau's Jo Ingles about this issue.
We want to continue helping - if you are a local family struggling to find a formula or if you are willing to speak with a reporter or a legislator about the problems you are facing, please let us know so that we can a) attempt to help, b) help emphasize the severity of this problem, and c) continue to raise awareness of the problem.
For those who may have seen online recipes for homemade baby food, please consider reading this article that discusses the dangers of homemade formula. If you are not sure you trust the physician in the article, we also recommend this piece that talks to Dr. Meg Meeker, a trusted voice in the pro-life and medical community.
If you need some help or if you want to become an advocate, please use this form to send us your contact information (the responses will be emailed to us, they will not be posted in the comments, unless you use the comment section to respond).
Leaked Report Suggests Dobbs Overturns Roe V Wade
In a report published tonight by Politico, what appears to be a leaked first draft of the Dobbs decision calls for the overturn of Roe v Wade.
The decision, which is marked as a first draft appears to be a 5-3 decision that Chief Justice Roberts has not yet signed off on and the majority opinion written by Alito.
Greater Columbus Right to Life executive director Beth Vanderkooi noted, "If this opinion more or less stands and is published, it will be a good day for the unborn children of Ohio and our nation." Vanderkooi was cautious to note that it is not a final decision and there is some intrigue involved. There has never been a leaked US Supreme Court decision, and it could be an effort to influence the opinion writing process.
Vanderkooi continued, "Most importantly, this is a preview of what we in the pro-life movement have realized every time we talk about a post-Roe world: it will just be the start of our efforts. We must be prepared to, overnight, open up our hearts to help women, children, and families who find themselves in less than ideal circumstances. This has long been the pro-life community that I know and am privileged to work with every day."
This story will be updated
My name is Rachel and I’m a high school student who is passionate about protecting human life. A part of me has always wanted to get actively involved in the pro life community instead of silently opposing abortion from the comfort of my home. I naturally have more of a quiet, reserved personality, which leads to me keeping my opinions and ideas to myself, especially in a world where my views are deemed controversial. It has taken me some years to realize that avoiding conflict will never lead to a difference of saving human lives. As much as I want abortion to be unthinkable in my community, things aren’t guaranteed to change unless I push myself out of my comfort zone to challenge the circulated ideas I oppose. As I step into the foreign world of activism, I hope to improve the circumstances for pregnant women considering abortion to the best of my abillity so they’re more likely to choose life. I would like the following generations to meet and love the valuable human lives that could have ended early on in the womb. Throughout the process of advocating for change, I also hope my confidence in my ideas continue to grow. I’ve made quite a lot of progress compared to how I held back from voicing my opinions a couple years back, but there’s always room for growth and improvement.
I’m passionate in my pro life views not just because I value the lives of unborn babies, but also the emotional well being of the expecting mother. It pains me to know that the women in our society are being told that abortion is their only option for a successful future. The narrative of success only being attainable if your circumstances are ideal is not only untrue, but destructive. This narrative hits home for me, as it was pushed onto my immigrant family members. Women in my family, including my mother, were told they couldn’t be successful here in America because of their financial circumstances. Despite the discouragement, they proved this idea wrong as they went onto being successful in this country; landing jobs, even graduating with a PhD. Unfortunately, many women are fed this same narrative when a less than ideal circumstance arises, whether it involves a risky move of immigrating to a new country or an unwanted pregnancy. Instead, I hope to offer women encouragement and realistic, healthy alternatives to abortion that lead to a better outcome for mother and baby. Advocating for relief such as financial aid and counseling for these women can reduce the number of overall abortions, and the trauma that follows such an invasive procedure.
I’m eager to begin actively making a difference in my community already, and volunteering at Greater Columbus Right to Life is an exciting step in the right direction. Unborn babies are currently being dehumanized, and I’ll do whatever I can to give them the rights they deserve. Since they are incapable of speaking up for themselves, the responsibility falls on my uprising generation. I desire to evoke courage in other teenagers like me so they feel comfortable to speak up on this injustice.
Ohio Department of Health Denies Variance Reconsideration for Women’s Med in Dayton
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, director of the Ohio Department of Health has denied Women’s Med of Dayton a variance to operate an ambulatory surgical facility without a transfer agreement with a local hospital. Without either a transfer agreement or a valid variance, a clinic cannot perform surgical procedures.
Why was the variance denied?
The variance was denied and denied for reconsideration because one of the physicians is not an OBGYN.
What happens next?
Legally, there are a few things that can happen. Administrative law for all sectors (not just abortion clinics) is complex. First, the clinic has an opportunity to submit another physician as a backup as part of an application for a variance. If that does not happen, the Ohio Department of Health will start the process to revoke the license for Women’s Med in Dayton and the process of revoking a license will be started with the Ohio Attorney General. The length of that process could vary. When this happened to Women’s Med in the past, it took about three years. Given the legal precedent, it could go faster. The clinic could also voluntarily cease surgical abortions.
Didn’t the Ohio Department of Health already close this clinic?
Yes. You may remember that several years ago, the Ohio Department of Health ordered closure of Women’s Medical Center of Dayton for failing to meet the requirements of a transfer under Ohio law. After a long legal battle, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the closure of the clinic in the Fall of 2019.
Unfortunately, the clinic took advantage of a loophole in Ohio’s law that allowed them to start a new abortion business with a similar but new name and apply for a new license with a clean slate. Ohio’s law governing ambulatory surgical centers (O.R.C. 3702.30) stipulates that the director of the Ohio Department of Health shall issue a license to a facility as long as it submits an application and meets the criteria established by law. For those who do not speak legalese - the words “shall” and “may” are very critical in legislation. Statutes using “shall” do not give the state any real opportunity to take into consideration things like “this facility was closed by law a few days ago,” especially when the statute itself does not list any other factors that can be considered.
I read that the Governor and Ohio Department of Health just gave the clinic a new license to keep it open?
Frankly there was a lot of public misunderstanding on this issue as some entities misunderstood the legal requirements and thought that the current administration had used discretionary powers to keep the clinic open despite a court decision closing it. This is simply not true, even though it was reported in several pro-life media outlets and by several groups.
So how did we get here?
Well, as noted in the fall of 2019, the Supreme Court upheld the revocation and closure of the previous clinic. The “new” clinic opened and applied for a license to operate. That license was approved and was valid through the fall of 2020. In 2020, Women’s Med Dayton started the renewal process. As part of the renewal, they applied for a variance to the transfer agreement law. That variance was denied because one of the physicians who agreed to serve as a back-up physician was not an OBGYN with full privileges at the hospital. Lawyers for the clinic sent additional information supporting their argument that the physician was qualified. The director of the Department of Health reviewed the request and issued the denial letter we are talking about today.
How can we keep this from happening again?
For several years, Greater Columbus Right to Life has been advocating numerous changes to the law governing ambulatory surgical centers, abortion-pill-only providers, and abortion reporting. One change we have suggested is to revise the director’s directives in 3702.30 (D) either to substitute the word “may” for the word “shall” or to provide a list of other qualifications that an application must meet in order to be approved (such as not being substantially the same as a similar provider shut down by order of law). Such a law could address the revolving door of abortion clinics that have existed not only in Dayton but also in Toledo, Columbus, and Summit County. We estimate that clinics which have been legally reorganized to remain open in the exact same place with a substantially similar staff and management after a serious violation of Ohio law account for 20-25% of all abortions in Ohio.
Why is it so difficult to close an abortion clinic? Why does all of this take so long when there are babies being killed every day? Doesn’t anyone care?
It is incredibly, incredibly frustrating. Administrative law is a complex combination of statutory language and judicial decisions for any state agency, and there have been all kinds of additional accommodations that apply to abortion clinics because of judicial precedent (past decisions). It is very frustrating for those of us who want nothing more than to see the end of the barbaric practice of abortion and work every single day to end it – be that by dismantling the legal protections for it or by helping women who are pregnant in ways so that they make choices for life.
If you want to do something right now to end abortion, consider joining our sidewalk ministry program, especially if you have M-F availability. In the past ten years, five locations that saw a GCRTL prayer presence have either closed permanently or ceased performing or referring for abortions.
Why isn’t GCRTL actively lobbing for better laws?
Until the last decade, we were very actively using our C4 organization to impact the laws, but we were a very small organization with a very small budget. Our leaders realized that while there were a lot of organizations working in Columbus on the laws and lawsuits, there wasn’t anyone in central Ohio working in a grassroots manner to change hearts and minds and culture from womb to tomb. Right now, GCRTL acts as a 501c(3). This means that donations to our organization are tax exempt, but we are limited in the lobbying that we can do. This is also constrained by budget realities. We are a small organization with limited staff and a big mission – in fact, we are trying to hire someone now to help us with the work. If we had the financial or staff resources to commit to public policy, we would tackle these problems as well as become more engaged on the local level. If you’d like to talk to us about how to make that happen, give us a call.
Why does Columbus Right to Life follow a clinic in Dayton?
Part of the GCRTL ongoing commitment to holding surgical abortion clinics accountable, we have been following the situation in Dayton with Women’s Med of Dayton very closely. It is of special interest to those of us in Central Ohio because when the abortion-pill clinics in central Ohio have a botched case and need non-emergency surgical intervention they often send women to Women’s Med in Dayton. It is also a clinic that provides later term abortions and draws women from around the state for that purpose.
In general, though, our clinic accountability project has covered all the abortion clinics in Ohio and we regularly provide research and information to other pro-life groups, public officials, and community members around the state. Our goal has always been to end the barbaric practice of abortion in our community – not just those performed here.
Can I see a copy of the documents you are referring to?
Here is a copy of the denial letter.
Here is a copy of the request for reconsideration.
We regularly obtain these and other documents related to abortion clinics in Ohio through public records requests.
The Ohio Department of Health released the 2020 Abortion Statistics Report today. 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 abortion methods. While the data is anonymous, 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 2020 Ohio Abortion Statistics here (note: it is a large file). While the numbers never tell the whole story, they can give us a snapshot of what is happening in Ohio and give us insight into trends to help us to focus our resources, attention, and programs where they are most needed.
In June, we predicted that the number of abortions statewide would increase by at least two percent. Unfortunately, that prediction was very accurate. Statewide abortions in Ohio increased last year by about 2.5% (503) to 20,605 last year. This means that about 57 babies died by abortion each day in Ohio last year. Statewide, about 52% of all abortions were committed via surgical methods and about 48% via nonsurgical methods, generally the abortion pill. Use of the abortion pill grew statewide from 38% the year prior.
Once again, however, central Ohio was a leader in reducing the number of abortions, with about a 12% decline. In 2019 there were 3993 abortions performed in Franklin County. In 2020, that number declined to 3115. In the last decade, we’ve reduced abortions by about 35%, and in the past two decades we have cut the number of abortions nearly in half. The use of the abortion pill continues to grow; last year about 80% of all abortions were non-surgical, almost entirely using one or both pills in the abortion pill regimen. Of the 2803 medical abortions, 2 were performed using methotrexate and for one the method was not reported. This is an increase in both number and percentage from 2019 when about 70% of abortions used the pill.
When we see a local decrease in abortions performed but state as a whole and the other facilities are seeing increases, one thing we look to is the number of abortions performed on women who live in Central Ohio. It is no real victory for life if women are merely traveling further away to get their procedures. With the closure of Founder’s last year and the increasing use of the abortion pill locally, this was a very real possibility. Initial reviews of the numbers show that this is not likely to be true (although we will do a more in-depth analysis as we have more time to review them).
In looking at the counties we most directly work with and in, all but one saw a significant decline in the number of abortions when compared to last year. Franklin County women had 51 fewer abortions (about 2%) with 3115 total, Delaware County women had 18 fewer abortions (about 12%) with 131, Licking County women had ten fewer abortions (about 6%) with 151, Madison County women had six fewer (about 15%) with 35, Morrow County women had 8 fewer (47%) with 9 total, Pickaway County women had 8 fewer (17%) with 39, and Union County women had 3 fewer (about 1%) with 37. Fairfield County women did see an increase of 28 (about 22%) with 151 total abortions.
A few initial things about these numbers jump out at us.
Women identifying as African-American continue to have abortions in numbers that are disproportionately high. For what we believe is the first time, African-American women obtained the largest percentage of abortions statewide. Forty-three of every 100 abortions in Ohio were performed on women identifying as Black or African American. White women accounted for 42%, and Asian women 3%. Just under 12% of women did not identify as one of the above or did not respond to this question. In 2020, about 12.5% of the total population of Ohio identified as African American.
It is difficult to estimate the pandemic’s influence on abortion. The research from our June findings suggested higher numbers of total abortions in April and May of 2020 when compared to other months, and there was an especially large increase in the number of abortion pills reported in those months. However, the authors of the study we cited concluded that the Governor’s executive order banning elective medical procedures resulted in the sharp increase of medication abortion in April. Litigation filed against the state by abortion advocates earlier this year also cited the impact of the Executive Order on surgical abortions, with the Ohio Department of Health sending inspectors to ensure the clinics were not operating until stopped by litigation.
It is clear that the closing of Founder’s in July of 2020 made a difference. Each time an abortion clinic or an abortion referring clinic closes locally, we see a significant drop abortion (and we have seen an increase those times a clinic has opened or re-opened). Together we have closed or stopped six locations in the past decade, saving tens of thousands of lives locally. The focused work of a unified and organized pro-life sidewalk ministry is integral to the success of the pro-life movement. The dramatic decline in abortions performed locally can be directly tied to the work that we are doing. If you’d like to get involved, now is a great time. Visit: gcrtl.org/swc-survey to join us.
The abortion pill is changing how abortions happen. Abortion organizations are pushing and promoting the use of the abortion pill, including encouraging women to purchase abortion pills online or oversees for “self-managed abortions.” Not only have we seen how dangerous this can be for both women and the children born alive after such ill-advised experiments, but we know how deeply this will impact our community. We have changed how we operate to reach women considering the abortion pill, but we need to continue to adapt and grow in this area. We also have a wonderful opportunity to increase abortion pill reversal referrals and education.
Lastly, we need to continue our work with and support to life-affirming organizations like Greater Columbus Right to Life as well as those that accompany women and families facing pregnancy and life challenges, and we need to provide encouragement and hope for anyone who may suffer after experiencing an abortion. In 20 years we reduced the number of abortions performed locally by about 50% and we have slowly built the infrastructure to provide community-based help and resources for families who have chosen life. With the prospect of the Dobbs case restoring abortion law to the states and Ohio’s current six-week prohibition on abortion and the likelihood of passing pending legislation that would outright ban abortion in Ohio, we will need to redouble our efforts. The pen stroke that will eliminate abortion will not also eliminate the suffering that leads women to believe it their best or only option.
In recent years, pro-life Americans have worked to pass laws that make it a crime not to provide medical assistance to an unborn baby born alive after an attempted abortion and to restrict efforts to increase the availability of getting abortion pills without seeing a doctor.
Abortion advocates have fought these two reasonable efforts tooth-and-nail calling them unnecessary, but a tragedy in Licking County, Ohio shows not only how necessary they are but also why these reasonable protections are opposed only by the most radical in the pro-choice community.
Beneath all of the social and political rhetoric, we mourn the loss of Cayden Gillum, a baby born alive after an attempted third-trimester abortion, allowed to die, and then discarded in the trash. There will be no justice for the child at the true center of this tragedy because of a recent decision by a judge.
Kalina Gillum and her then-boyfriend, Braden Mull, tried in 2019 to terminate her pregnancy in the third trimester with abortion pills that they illegally ordered off of the internet.. Abortion pills can be taken until the 10th week of pregnancy. Kalina was 28 or 29 weeks along. The pills didn’t work as she intended; her son was born alive on a bathroom floor. Instead of rushing to seek medical care, she and Mull decided to allow the child to die.
According to prosecutors, Gillum sent a photo of the newly born child to Mull with text messages that stated “it’s out” and “it’s moving.” In fact, court records show the two texted each other from when Mull left for work that morning through when the child was born.
It wasn’t until nine hours later that Gillum entered a hospital after losing a lot of blood and being unable to deliver the placenta.
Firefighters reportedly later found the child’s body inside a shoebox placed in trash bag.
For those who don’t know how abortion pills work, RU-486, also called Mifeprex or mifepristone, is a drug that acts to end a baby's life in the early stages of pregnancy by blocking progesterone. Without progesterone, the unborn baby's life is no longer supported and he or she will die. Several days after taking the Mifepristone, a woman takes a prostaglandin called misoprostol, also known as Cytotec, to expel the now deceased unborn child.
Charges were filed, but the most severe one (homicide) was thrown out by the judge. Mull pleaded guilty to one count of child endangering and abuse of a corpse and received a one-year sentence. But after a trial, Gillum received a legal slap on the wrist: probation. However, this was after a jury found her guilty of endangering a child, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse.
But that wasn’t enough for her to see the inside of a cell.
Licking County Common Pleas Court Judge David Branstool issued the probation sentence last month. His decision, he said, came from revelations Gillum had suffered horrific abuse at the hands of Mull – claims the jury did not hear.
Prosecutor Bill Hayes said justice means the defendant should be held accountable for their actions and a deterrent should be in place not to do the same thing again. He doesn’t feel that’s been the case. In fact, he worries it will go in the opposite direction of a deterrent.
“Our concern is those who would see this and take a like action if they attempted an abortion but had a live child,” Hayes told Greater Columbus Right to Life. “A person may feel they now won’t go to prison that abortion fails, and they make similar choices.”
Prosecutors didn’t try this as a “pro-life vs. pro-choice” case.
“We prosecuted this as a child-endangering case,” Hayes said. “She was a pregnant woman, but when that child was born she became a mother. She had a duty to take care of him and she didn’t. She put him in a bag in a box.”
Hayes worries about efforts by abortion advocates to broaden the mail order availability of abortion pills will result in more tragedies like this one.
“These pills weren’t supposed to be in the country,” he said of the Misoprostol Gillum took to begin the abortion. “Two orders were placed for the pills; one was stopped by customs and the other one got through.”
Beth Vanderkooi, executive director of Greater Columbus Right to Life agreed, “There is a national and local movement to increase the flow of the abortion pill into this country. Abortion industry advocates are calling for abortion to be available via the mail or telemedicine appointments.”
She said abortion advocates want to repeal laws that require the drugs to be dispensed in a particular way by medical professionals, and they want to eliminate laws the allow the drugs to be mailed into the country from questionable internet sources.
“They are also actively training the community on the theoretical availability of ‘self-managed medication abortions,’ which is basically a winking encouragement for more women to obtain abortion pills illegally and self-administer them at home. This is not only deadly for a baby; it is dangerous for women.”
Vanderkooi further added, “Abortion advocates have criticized pregnancy help centers locally by saying that urine pregnancy tests, ultra-sounds performed by nurses and reviewed by doctors, and referrals for ongoing obstetric care is not enough medical oversight to talk to women about options and help available should they continue their pregnancies. These are the same people who want women to be able to access powerful drugs that have resulted in injury and death without every seeing a single medical professional.”
Vanderkooi added, “Once again, the politics and radical agenda of the abortion industry doesn’t care if women end up in the hospital hemorrhaging or if the abortion ‘fails’ because the pregnancy is ectopic rather than uterine.” She added that she and the pro-life people of central Ohio are thankful for prosecutors like Bill Hayes who acknowledge the recently born child as fully human, deserving of dignity and the protection of the law.
Today, colleagues at Northeast Ohio Right to Life, Ohio Right to Life, and Citizens for a Pro-Life Society held a press conference after discarded fetal remains were found in the trash can outside of a Northeast Ohio abortion clinic. According to a report, the remains were recovered in a dumpster along with several other items. The unborn child was estimated to be at 17 weeks gestation. The bloody fetal remains, photos of which were shared by Denise Leopold of Northeast Ohio Right to Life, consisted of severed limbs, wrapped in a bloody blanket.
In addition to the fetal remains, the volunteer found bloody surgical instruments, urine cultures, and bloody sheets and drape. The items were disposed in violation of Ohio EPA’s hazardous and medical waste provisions which require human biological waste to be refrigerated or frozen, secured, and not able to spread infectious disease. The trash also included protected medical information that could be used to identify patients.
The materials were gathered over the course of multiple days.
This is not the first shocking news to come out of the abortion clinic located in the same place. In 2013, the Ohio Department of Health shut down the facility for failing to meet sanitation standards and other basic health and safety standards. The business was also subjected to DEA and other enforcement activity for conditions that included improper storage of medicine and theft of patient blood. The clinic, at which Burkons worked, was shut down in 2013, but Burkons was able to re-open the facility and obtain a new surgical license. Burkons is notorious among abortion providers and has been affiliated with numerous state abortion clinics, including now-closed Founder’s Women’s Health.
Beth Vanderkooi, executive director of Greater Columbus Right to Life, noted, “The callous disregard with which these clinics treat unborn children and their mothers is par for the course in the abortion industry; it is the reality that the industry and its apologists try to cover up by painting it in vibrant shades of pink and purple and calling it ‘feminism.’ Every day, courageous pro-life witnesses work to speak the truth to women and families considering abortion and reveal the truth of the abortion industry.”
Vanderkooi continued, “But today’s shocking revelations continue to reveal the truth: abortion is a violent, exploitative, and disgusting practice that trades in human despair and misery and profits from pain. We continue to pray for the day that the US Supreme Court recognizes that there is no right to intentionally destroy unborn children. Until then, this is the second incident in the past year that illustrates why the Legislature must revise abortion clinic licensing laws to eliminate a major loophole in Ohio that forces the director of the Ohio Department of Health to license any abortion clinic or other ambulatory surgical center that fills out the permit, pays a fee, and presents basic information such as an infection control plan. Ohio law does not offer any discretion to the Ohio Department of Health in granting these licenses. All a shoddy operator needs to do is change the name or file different paperwork. This happens again and again, as is illustrated here locally with Your Choice and its sister clinic Capital Care of Toledo. This is unacceptable.
This story will be updated as more details emerge.