Written by: Beth Vanderkooi, Executive Director
March 8, 2021
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, and halting a Mass and then interrupted 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.