Note: This entry describes and provides links to video coverage of a vulgar protest of a local abortion clinic. It is intended for mature audiences.
Today, the Cleveland Scene, a liberal alternative paper based in Cleveland is calling for Ohio lawmakers to pass a bill that would severely infringe upon the rights of peaceful pro-life individuals to pray outside of an abortion clinic. Given the the current makeup of the Ohio General Assembly, the bill has about as much of a chance of passing as the proverbial snowball in Hades. Nonetheless we want to go on the record that this legislation, like the similar Columbus and Toledo ordinances, is unnecessary and unhelpful.
The legislation, HB 234, is a familiar reiteration of a bill that has been introduced in past General Assemblies and is not unlike the bubble ordinance enacted in Columbus last year or introduced in Toledo this summer.
The Cleveland Scene article was published in response to something that happened at a Columbus area abortion clinic the second week of September. A similar article was published on Plunderbund, a liberal blog that noted it was provided by Progress Ohio, a pro-abortion policy think tank in Ohio. An out-of-state group calling themselves the Street Preachers traveled to Columbus for a demonstration at a mosque. While they were here, they led several other protests, including visits to an abortion clinic - Founder's Women's Health, and a local college campus. Local news covered the group's demonstration as well as a counter protest at the mosque. The group purports to be a Christian organization, but their primary form of outreach - at least in Columbus - consisted of using bullhorns and microphones to should vile phrases like "dirty whore" or "trashy slut" and other vile and bizarre phrases. A video of their "protest" is available via the Cleveland Scene article, but note that the audio is not appropriate for anyone - especially children.
When I learned that the group was protesting outside of the clinic, I went to the Founder's, but by the time I arrived, they were already gone. In the past week I was able to listen about a half an hour of their "outreach" in shock and horror, and I can attest that the snippet is representative of their actions. The content I listened to was shared publicly in my personal Facebook timeline by someone who happens to favor abortion rights from the personal Facebook page of the pro-abortion activist who captured the video. Because the content is not on a public page, I am not linking to it here. However, what I heard was some of the most hateful and, frankly, insane speech I've ever been exposed to. For example, at one point a teenager with the group picked up the bullhorn an started yelling words like "dirty whore" repeatedly. At another point, a woman accused the clinic employees of cooking and eating fetal remains and wearing them like makeup.
At Greater Columbus Right to Life, we absolutely stand against this kind of hate - whether it is at the abortion clinic, on campus, at the mosque, and anywhere else. Our training includes ample reminders that we are all broken people living in a broken world and that God's peace is found at the intersection of God's love and God's law. Not to mention, while this group did not seem to make a single convert or save a single unborn child from abortion when they were here, they undoubtedly raised significant dollars for pro-abortion groups and recruited dozens of new volunteers.
The Columbus police did show up at the clinic, and while I was thankful that they were on hand to monitor the situation, I was surprised that the members of the group were not cited. Members of the group were absolutely disturbing the peace, violating noise ordinances, and blocking the sidewalk from free passage. Furthermore, they did not cite them for violating the Columbus City's ordinance on "Obstruction and Harassment at a Reproductive Health Care Facility."
That point is important. You may remember that last summer Columbus City Council introduced an ordinance that would have made it a crime to "annoy or inconvenience" an abortion clinic employee, volunteer, patient, or another person within fifteen feet of a clinic. We argued then, as we do now, that existing Columbus and state law provide ample statutes which criminalize behaviors endangering public safety or disturbing the peace. In response, the ordinance was ultimately amended. The final version of the law was a scare tactic to Columbus volunteers in strategy, but in actual language redundant to Columbus' existing disorderly conduct law. It simply created an enhanced penalty when a person was charged with knowingly engaging in disorderly conduct near an abortion clinic. The repetitive law was entitled "obstruction and harassment at a reproductive health care facility." You can read the municipal ordinance online and compare it to the language of HB 234 or the pre-existing city disorderly conduct ordinance.
The argument that HB 234 is necessary to stop this kind of clinic harassment is flawed for several reasons, but chief among them is that 1) the City of Columbus' code contains nearly an identical ordinance, and it was not sufficient to stop the actions depicted in the video, and 2) it is hard to argue that the people inside a doctor's office deserve more protection from hateful speech, harassment, and obstruction than people inside a place of worship or a college campus. The pro-abortion group behind the two editorials ignored the exact same behavior at a college campus and a mosque, despite repeatedly arguing that Muslim-Americans need special protections and inclusion in the law after the election of President Trump. In fact, their original Facebook post from that day is a perfect example. Why? Their intent here isn't to protect the health and safety of women seeking abortions (if it were, they would be out protesting Founder's). Their purpose is to grandstand on the disgusting speech of people who in no way represent the local pro-life community in an effort to paint us with the same brush and stop us from offering prayerful, peaceful, alternatives.
We reject the hateful speech of these so-called street preachers because of our fundamental belief in the dignity of all human life does not leave room for that kind of repugnant, demeaning language or behavior, and we said so to every news outlet that called to get our take.
The solution to hateful speech from an out-of-state group that is amplifying its message to a wide crowd and blocking the right-of-way outside of an abortion is not to deem some of the hateful speech illegal and create a private right of action to sue over objectionable speech. The solution is to enforce existing disorderly conduct and noise ordinances and to introduce more speech into the public square. The loving, the prayers, and the activism of the pro-life faithful will absolutely win in the marketplace of ideas - it will win by silencing the vile hatred of protesters like these street preachers and it will win by arguing for the dignity of the unborn, the infirm, the aged, and the oppressed. For it to win, however, we need for pro-abortion activists, lawmakers, and opinion columnists to stop attempting to use the law to shut down pro-life speech and we need loving, rational, and reasonable members of the pro-life faithful to step forward to offer an alternative to hateful and disruptive speech.
It is a good time to ask - can you spare one hour for our 40 Days for Life campaign or 2 hours a month to be a prayer partner?
PS: Any other women find it offensive that so-called women's rights groups are advancing a law that allows an abortion clinic employee to file a civil lawsuit under a pseudonym? That is not statutorily granted to any victim in a criminal case or any other plaintiff in civil litigation (including rape, domestic violence, and sexual harassment victims) except in very specific case compelling a blood test to test for HIV after possible exposure to a peace officer or from providing emergency medical care.