Columbus, Ohio, Mar 10, 2021 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Several pro-abortion protesters who disrupted a pro-life Mass in Columbus, Ohio in January have been charged with misdemeanors and arraigned, with pretrial hearings scheduled for the coming months.
On Jan. 22, more than a half-dozen pro-abortion protesters disrupted the Respect Life Mass at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in downtown Columbus, where Bishop Robert Brennan was presiding at an event marking the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
Those involved, masked and holding hand-made signs, chanted slogans such as “Two, four, six, eight, this church teaches hate.” “Fund abortion, not cops,” said one of their signs. “Abortion on Demand. End Hyde Now,” said another, referring to the Hyde Amendment, which bans most federal funding for abortion.
Police and church officials escorted the protesters outside, where some protesters appeared to make obscene gestures at them. The protesters continued to chant at slogans outside the church.
Three of the protesters— two women and one man— were later charged with disorderly conduct and criminal trespass, both misdemeanors.
A fourth person, a woman, faces those same misdemeanor charges in addition to a criminal damage charge; she is set to be arraigned March 19.
All three protesters arraigned March 5 pleaded not guilty, and are scheduled for pretrial hearings in March and April, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
No arrests were made on the day of the protest, but the city attorney’s office filed the charges Feb. 18.
“We are…thankful for the proactive concern shown by our city’s leaders in supporting people of faith and their right to worship in peace and free of disruption,” Bishop Brennan said in a statement Monday.
Pro-life groups active in the state also praised law enforcement for taking action against the protesters.
“Even our pro-choice city attorney recognized that the rule of law must always apply and our churches are sacred institutions,” said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, in a statement.
“Menacing others and yelling vulgarities at a church service at which young children were present is both unlawful and unconscionable…Such displays of irreverence towards women and children practicing their faith is tragic and uncalled for.”.
The charges drew ire from several pro-abortion organizations, who say the protesters’ actions— despite taking place inside the church and taking the form of occasionally vulgar slogans and gestures— were justified.
Several of the pro-abortion organizations likened the disruptive protest that took place in the cathedral to the pro-life witness of religious people outside abortion clinics.
A group called the Ohio Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice— a group aligned with the dissident group Catholics for Choice— said in a statement that they “stand firm in our continued support of the pro-abortion activists” who engaged in what they called “a brief peaceful protest.”
“No church can claim to be an inviolable sacred space when it abuses its power and authority to promote a political agenda and demean those seeking abortion care,” the group claimed, implying that the protest at the cathedral was, in part, retaliation for pro-lifers’ “organized sidewalk harassment at clinics throughout Ohio.”
Pro-abortion groups Women Have Options Ohio, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, and Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity all released similar statements of support for the protesters.
Several of the pro-abortion groups cited a 2019 incident during which a rock was thrown through a window of Toledo’s only abortion clinic as evidence that pro-lifers “attack” women seeking abortions and abortion providers, despite no evidence that the rock was thrown by a pro-life protester.
“After a pattern and practice of spewing vile and hateful insults at patients, following patients to cars, and throwing rocks at a Toledo clinic these extremists claim protesting a public event is harassment,” Women Have Options Ohio said.
Peter Range, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Toledo’s Director of the Office for Life and Justice, disavowed any violence against the abortion clinic and its patients when the rock-throwing incident took place.