‘The First Step Is No On 1’: Ohio March for Life Vows to Protect Pro-Life Progress
With a looming election that could overturn months of pro-life progress and legalize abortion until birth, thousands gathered at the Ohio state capitol in Columbus on Friday to hold the state’s second annual March for Life.
Ohio’s Issue 1 would establish the right of “[e]very individual” to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to” fertility treatments and abortion. Though the measure says abortion may be regulated after “viability,” it allows an exception for the “health” of the mother similar to the gaping loophole created by the Doe v. Bolton decision, effectively legalizing abortion for any reason until birth. After the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision last June, the state enacted a heartbeat law, which saw abortions plunge from more than 2,000 a month to less than 850 before the law was legally enjoined.
Although polls show most Ohioans — and most Americans — support limiting abortion well before the third trimester, Issue 1 currently appears poised to legally forbid the will of the people. Critics such as the Center for Christian Virtue also point out that the proposed amendment’s language could be interpreted to establish the right of minors to seek and “carry out” transgender surgeries, since “bottom surgery” permanently affects the reproduction of an “individual.”
Marchers began in prayer before the 11 a.m. rally at the capitol. Roman Catholic participants attended a Mass in downtown’s St. Joseph Cathedral celebrated by Bishop Earl Fernandes. Protestants began with a Pastor’s Breakfast featuring keynote speaker Alistair Begg, whose Parkside Church is based in the Cleveland area. Bishop Fernandes then opened the proceedings at the state house.
This year’s March for Life attracted the highest-ranking official yet: Ohio’s junior senator, J.D. Vance (R). Senator Vance — who spent the morning with striking autoworkers in Toledo before driving down to Columbus — emphasized the importance of defeating Issue 1 next month. “There is a choice coming, and we need to choose life! We need to fight for life starting next week,” when early voting begins in the state, said Vance.
“The first step is, ‘No On 1,’” he said, as cheering crowds held up their own signs bearing that message.
“There are many steps to support after [the election], and I’ll be right there with you for those, too,” Vance, who chronicled his Ohio upbringing in the bestselling book “Hillbilly Elegy,” promised the pro-life movement.
The Republican senator’s presence highlighted the absence of his colleague, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, who has endorsed Issue 1 and faces a tough reelection in the increasingly Republican state next year.
“The pro-lifers are never going to like me,” Brown promised in 1992. Brown, a career politician long before he reached Washington, subsequently voted against the partial-birth abortion ban numerous times, as well as favoring taxpayer-funded abortion. His overall abortion record mirrors that of Vance’s felled Democratic rival in the 2022 midterm election, Tim Ryan.
Perhaps highlighting Brown’s vulnerabilities, a small but significant contingent of Democrats for Life mixed with the large crowd, which represented every demographic of the state.
Others noted their personal gratitude for parents who chose life. “I am here, because my birth mother made the courageous decision to choose life for me,” said Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted (R).
The high stakes in November’s election brought a new group of supporters to the state that had not attended last year’s march: pro-life supporters from other states.
“I came all the way from Maryland to the Ohio March for Life to show solidarity with Buckeye State pro-lifers,” Michael J. New, a professor of political science and social research at the Catholic University of America and a scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, told The Washington Stand. “November’s vote on Issue 1 is the most important election for pro-lifers in 2023. We really cannot allow supporters of legal abortion to achieve a major ballot box victory in a conservative state. Pro-lifers from around the country need to enthusiastically support Ohio pro-life activists in their efforts to defeat Issue 1.”
One group, which said it traveled from Argentina, held a sign celebrating its participation in “Marcha for la Vida.”
But the majority of marchers hailed from Ohio, as they proved with the rally’s uniquely Ohio distinctives. Some marchers modified the Ohio State Buckeyes football chant of “O-H, I-O” to “O-H, Vote No!” Others played off OSU’s Big Ten rivalry with the University of Michigan, holding signs that read, “Don’t Michigan My Ohio.”
The Ohio-based Created Equal both displayed photographs of abortion victims and brought its mobile van, equipped with an ultrasound unit, to the grounds. Studies vary, but “80% of women considering an abortion choose life when they see an ultrasound,” according to Heartbeat International, a coalition of pro-life pregnancy resource centers headquartered in Columbus.
Three pro-abortion protesters showed up — a number that, while meager, tripled their numbers from last year. Two of this year’s protesters shouted through a bullhorn that pro-life advocates do “not care” if people die, as they held a flag proclaiming, “Free safe & legal abortion or else.”
For the most part, the abortion industry-funded opposition has remained content to promote its message over the internet and television with a campaign that has targeted Ohio’s Christians. The first ad for the abortion-expanding measure showed a man kneeling to pray inside a Roman Catholic church — possibly thanks to the influence of Catholics for Choice, which has endorsed the measure.
The most recent TV ad opens with a picture of the Bible and a member of the liberal United Church of Christ reading the often-miscited verse, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged.” Of course, no state constitutional amendment holds the power to condemn someone’s soul to eternal hellfire.
Pushing back against this trend, more than 100 black pastors signed a letter on the Tuesday before the march opposing Issue 1.
“This is not a party line vote, nor is Issue 1 a Republican or Democrat issue. This is a moral issue and for the Black community in particular, it is a life-or-death mater,” they wrote. They point out that blacks are disproportionately targeted for abortion: “The Black community has been the target of the abortion industry for decades, beginning with the deplorable ideology of racist eugenicist Margaret Sanger, whose Planned Parenthood organization purposefully established abortion mills in minority neighborhoods and targeted our communities for abortions.”
Racial disparities persist in abortion to this day. While only 13% of Ohio’s population is black, 48% of abortions are carried out on black women. Although the Left chalks up every other disparity to systemic racism, abortion seemingly never gets similar treatment. One signatory of that letter, Ken Blackwell, is a former Ohio Secretary of State who now serves as senior fellow for Human Rights and Constitutional Governance at Family Research Council.
Any legal Ohio resident can register to vote until tomorrow: Tuesday, October 10. Early in-person voting and absentee voting by mail begins this Wednesday, October 11, and continues until the election.
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.