Several years before the Supreme Court legalized abortion, Cincinnati began as one of the seed beds of pro-life organization and resistance. Let’s look back.
In the years leading up to the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973, the pro-abortion clouds had begun to gather. Behind the scenes and unknown to the public, the abortion merchants were busy planning what they hoped would be a winning strategy to sell abortion to our country. Colorado passed the first permissive law in 1967, but it was hemmed in with tight restrictions. The pressure began to build in other states to join Colorado. Later in that same year, California became the first major state to legalize abortion for “mental health.” In practice that meant abortion-on-demand, but this fact received little publicity.
In 1970 the second major state, New York, passed a permissive abortion bill legalizing abortion for the first 4 ½ months of pregnancy. By then a total of a dozen states had legalized it, with all but three allowing abortion only for very narrow reasons. Clearly the virus was spreading, and it had reached some in Ohio.
A new bill was introduced into the Ohio General Assembly in 1971 to legalize abortion-on-demand in the first half of pregnancy. All of a sudden the problem was in our own backyard. If two other states had passed this radical bill, it could possibly pass in Ohio. We quickly mobilized our newly formed Right to Life group.
It so happened that several crucial members of the Judiciary Committee of the Ohio House and Senate were from the Cincinnati area. When questioned, they had replied that they “were studying the bill.” Clearly they had not established a position, so we decided to assist them.
We had just finished assembling a pro-life slide set and obtained some flyers from the Knights of Columbus. With the cooperation of the Catholic Archdiocese, we asked for and received invitations to speak in all of the Catholic high schools in greater Cincinnati. There were ten schools ranging from 500-1,000 students each. Every week or two, we and another doctor/nurse team, Dr. George and Jean Tenoever, lectured at a different school, usually to a general assembly of all the students. Our message was to explain why we did not want legal abortion. At the end of the talk, our request to the students was to write to their legislators and ask them to vote against the abortion bill.
At the same time, a team of lawyers was going to Sunday church services to explain the bill that was now before the legislature. They too asked for letters to be sent to state representatives.
The results were unprecedented. Whereas in the past, an elected official might have received 20-30 letters on a particular bill, in this case Chester Cruze, member of the Ohio House Judiciary Committee, got 9,000 letters from his own Cincinnati district. He became the pro-life leader in the House. Others also were completely inundated by a similar barrage of letters, and the bill was voted down by a very large margin.
At the House Judiciary Committee hearings for the two pro-abortion bills, we had been scheduled to show slides of living and aborted babies. However we were blocked from doing so. Instead we passed 12 x 16 inch photos of our slides around the table to the state representatives. Pictures of the fetal babies were slowly handed from one member to the other, but the abortion pictures were quickly passed on. The first House bill was defeated in committee 16-2 and the other bill 15-3, so neither went for a vote to the full House of Representatives.
As events transpired, this was only the beginning. Since then, the pro-life movement has grown to a national and international presence. Assuming the trend continues, we will see the day when developing babies’ lives are again protected.