Activists start abortion-protest week
Operation Save America rallies outside City Hall, local doctors’ offices
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
Dennis M . Mahoney
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
A black shirt with white printing made the message clear:
Homosexuality is sin.
Islam is a lie.
Abortion is murder.
Some issues are just black and white.
JAMES D . DeCAMP | DISPATCH
| Members of Operation Save America pray for the healing of Ed Martin, who has a liver disease, during a rally at City Hall. Group leaders are walking across the nation to promote their message.
Yesterday, the national group Operation Save America/Operation Rescue, in Columbus for a week of events, protested outside offices of doctors who perform abortions and promulgated an "emancipation proclamation for the pre-born child" at a City Hall rally.
In exhorting those attending the rally to sign the proclamation, the Rev. Philip "Flip" Benham, director of the Dallasbased group, said the abortion battle is much like the fight over slavery before the Civil War.
"Slavery was never a political issue," he said. "It was a Gospel issue."
Benham said violence in schools and even the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center are warnings from God to the country to repent for its toleration of abortion and homosexuality. He said the nation needs healing, which can come only through belief in Jesus.
In the end, 238 people signed the proclamation, which says, "The unborn child shall now, and forevermore, be set free to live in America."
Cletus Kiefer, a 48-year-old St. Louis resident, passed out literature before yesterday’s event. He said he came to Columbus to protest the abortions that are performed in offices and clinics, which he called "death camps."
"Killing babies is never legal. It’s just been decriminalized," he said. "That’s the issue. How can we sit around when we know babies are being killed?"
Shekinah Thomas, 16, daughter of Rusty Thomas, Operation Save America’s assistant director, said abortion must be seen "as a matter of life and death."
"So many people, they don’t care," she said. "And they just act like, ‘Oh, it’s just a woman’s choice.’ . . . I really want to do more to end it."
Scott Burch, a 35-year-old who lives in Victorian Village, protested against the rally, saying he supports abortion rights.
"It’s important to have an- other message out there," he said. "Otherwise, it looks a little bit more like there’s no one else to speak up against them."
Worthington resident Judy Field, 61, said that while Operation Save America has the right to rally, others have the right to make their views known.
"Our view is pro-choice, and that’s the message we want to get across," she said. "People have the right to choose. It’s not about whether abortion is right or wrong; it’s about the right to choose."
Columbus Police Lt. Jeffrey Puls said 26 officers were on duty during yesterday morning’s rally, and patrolling at all the events is costing the city overtime pay. Thus far, there have been no disturbances, he said.
Events such as Benham’s may be held outside City Hall, but the group pays for permits to park at the curb, and it provides its own electricity.
Benham, along with 10 others, is walking across the nation to promote Operation Save America’s agenda. With them are two white horses, named Justice and Judgment, and a donkey, named Mercy.
They began in California in March and hope to end their walk outside the White House in mid-August.
In addition to nightly worship services at City Hall, the group will hold an anti-abortion protest at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Statehouse and a rally against the judiciary at 11 a.m. Friday outside the Kinneary U.S. Courthouse on Marconi Boulevard.