Every day during Lent, at least one member or follower of the Greater Columbus Right To Life can be seen praying outside of Complete Healthcare for Women — one of 4 clinics in the area that offers abortion services — from sunrise until sunset as part of the annual 40 Days For Life action. On Saturday morning, executive director Ruth Yorston was joined in her prayers by a group from the St. Paul Catholic Church in Westerville praying rosaries, which they do on the first Saturday of every month. “This is the most-prayed sidewalk in Columbus,” Yorston said proudly.
Unlike the typical anti-abortion protesters that clinics, their escorts, women’s rights advocates and patients have come to expect (and which were once satirized by Amanda Palmer in her “Oasis” video), Yorston asks participants to sign a “statement of peace” that they will stick to praying. “There is a lot of violence that goes on behind those doors,” she said, “but it’s never good to return violence with violence.”
Father Daniel Drury, who led his congregants in the rosary, agreed. “We feel it’s important to bear witness,” he said, “and in a non-violent manner.”
Though affiliated with the statewide Ohio Right To Life organization that pushes legislation to outlaw abortion and impose restrictions on abortion access in the state — which Yorston called “life-affirming” — the 40 Days For Life action is, she said, “a completely non-political movement” not intended to promote a particular set of policies. “My job is to pray for them,” Yorston said, “not call them names.
Yorston came to anti-abortion activism in a path that’s not exactly unique in the movement: she says she used to work in a small abortion clinic in Wayne, Indiana until, she says, “I realized what I was doing.” Abortion, she says, “is a human rights issue: the right of a child to his or her life.”
Pointing at the clinic, which is closed on Saturdays, she added, “There are things happening in this building that are harmful to women, to children. We love women and children, and we want [the workers] to stop.” While she supports legislation intended to restrict access to abortion, in the end, she’d like to see a complete end to the practice.
“I wish,” she said, “that I could talk to the people on the other side of these walls and show them what I’ve seen. But there’s not there yet. So I pray.”
[Image via Toby Marks on Flickr, Creative Commons licensed.]