A few months ago, City Hall attempted to make it a crime in Columbus to annoy an abortion clinic employee, owner, client, or any other person within fifteen feet of the abortion clinic. In our comments to city council, we pointed out that enactment of this legislation would have a chilling effect on the free speech rights of individuals who are at an abortion clinic to prayerfully, peacefully, and respectfully protest abortion.
The proposal's sponsor repeatedly indicated that there is "no other medical procedure that is protested in this way." In some ways, that is true. There is no other medical procedure which intentionally and routinely destroys the life of an innocent human being, and I suspect that if there were another procedure that were to end the life of hundreds of people each year that there would be protests for that procedure, as well. Indeed, Ohio is a state with the death penalty, and each time a prisoner is executed a group forms to protest the execution. Others protest the practice year-round. If Ohio resumes executions in the death penalty, it will be interesting to see if those who parrot the language that "abortion is a legal, medical procedure and it should not be protested," will adopt the argument that "the death penalty is a medical, legal procedure and it should not be protested." I suspect that this will not be the case, even though many parallels in the arguments exist.
Note: I say this not because I am advocating for or opposing the death penalty in this piece; I am just noting the similarities between the arguments. Death penalty opponents routinely argue that the death penalty disproportionately impacts the black community, that it is painful and causes suffering until death, that it is unnecessary in a modern age where we can imprison the offender, that it reflects a community that values death, that it fails to address the underlying dysfunction of society that results in crime, and that even in our culture there is a failure of justice that results in too many executed prisoners who have been found to be innocent. To some degree, each of these arguments are used by the pro-life community, except the last one. There are no unborn children who have been adjudicated guilty of a capital crime by a jury of their peers, and the only due process of law which they receive is Ohio's 24 hour waiting law - something which is vehemently opposed by the abortion community.
Others might argue that this is incongruous, because unlike a prisoner, an unborn child lacks autonomy, the ability to live on its own, or some additional measure that makes it fully human. We disagree with those arguments, but even if we did not - it is clear that even here in our community there is another glaring distinction in how we see life which is dependent upon us. The Franklin County Dog shelter recently announced that it had euthanized some nearly 60 dogs after one was found to have distemper. Animal rights and welfare activists are protesting the effort, broken-hearted pet owners are speaking out against the loss or possible loss of dogs they recently adopted, and various veterinary, welfare, political, and community voices are vociferously speaking out. It has become a national story.
So I am not misunderstood - I am also not trying to take a position on the county human agent's actions, nor am I opposing those who feel a special calling for the protection of animals or the reformation of the justice system.
What I am doing is point out that it would be rare for a local government to target these kinds of peaceful protests by law abiding citizens. It would be very concerning - even to the death penalty advocate or the animal welfare indifferent - if government were to target either of these types of political activity because they were annoying or inconvenient.
City Council, however, did target the pro-life individual when it proposed legislation that would make it illegal to annoy or inconvenience someone outside of an abortion clinic. While we were successful in pushing back that proposed law because thousands in central Ohio stood up for the right to pray outside of an abortion clinic.
We pushed back against the law and it was amended. It will have no impact on our volunteers and others who are involved in peaceful prayer. We won, but at a great cost. It cost us thousands of dollars to mount a protest. There was an undeniable chilling effect on the pro-life community, and many of you have stopped coming out to pray, afraid that you will be targeted regardless of how the statute now reads.
We need you, now more than ever. If you have never ventured out with us, it is time to join our team. If it has been a while since you've been out, we invite you to come back again. We will welcome you back with joyful and grateful arms. If you haven't been able to support our work this year, we would appreciate a donation.
Each week, 110 unborn children die in Columbus by lethal injection or by being rendered limb from limb. You can stop it. Will you? We can all pretend that we care, but we can't pretend to show up.
If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to Greater Columbus Right to Life, you can do so here. You can also connect or reconnect with our prayer team here.