We the staff and board of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio and the NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Foundation issue the following statement in support of the organizers of the January 22 protest in Columbus and in condemnation of the criminal charges recently filed against them.
On January 22, the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade (the US Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion), a public anti-abortion event was held at St. Joseph Cathedral in Columbus. A small group of pro-abortion protesters, some of them former members of the Catholic faith, spoke out at the event to draw attention to decades of harm that has been sanctioned and financed by the leaders of that event. In their daily lives – as activists, patients, and members of marginalized communities – these protesters have long endured traumatic abuse because of who they are and what they believe. Anti-abortion leaders within the Catholic Diocese of Columbus are directly responsible for these traumas including political interference, stigmatization, and harassment outside of abortion clinics in their community. This harassment has inflicted harm on countless women, transgender, and gender non-conforming people who have made the decision to have an abortion.
It is deeply disturbing that the abortion rights activists have been criminally charged. Given that Officer Zachary Rosen, the Columbus Police officer who shot and killed Henry Green and was fired (but then reinstated) for beating an individual while they were handcuffed, is the charging officer, this raises serious questions about whether these charges are retribution against some of the protesters who have also participated in demonstrations calling attention to the racial injustices and violence committed by the Columbus Police Department. We stand with these protesters as they fight against these politically motivated charges filed against them.
Each day in Ohio, patients, many of whom are people of strong religious faith, arrive at clinics to receive abortion care and are met by screaming protesters who engage in harassment, intimidation, and violence towards patients, health care providers, and members of the local community. Employees of these clinics are subjected to disturbing protests at their homes, flyers calling them “killers among us” in their neighborhoods, and threats of violence and death. The perpetrators of these acts are rarely held accountable. A protest lasting less than three minutes pales in comparison to the decades of harm that have been inflicted on those accessing and providing abortion care.
All the while, spurred by anti-abortion leaders including within the Catholic church, the Ohio Legislature and Ohio’s governors have enacted one measure after another to restrict access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare, including abortion. They have imposed 25 of these measures on Ohioans during the past decade. These measures and the powerful institutions behind them inflict harm on those most at risk for other systemic oppression and inequities: Black and brown people, people with lower incomes, young people, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, immigrants, and other people who have been and continue to be marginalized.
The right to decide whether or when to have a child, and to raise that child in a safe community free from the ravages of violence and poverty, is a fundamental human right. We stand with the activists involved in the protest at St. Joseph in opposing those who systematically deprive Ohioans of their reproductive freedom.