Wednesday, May 17, 2006


On September 25, 2004, Ohio Right to Life sponsored The Rally for Life at Bicentennial Park in downtown Columbus. Top dog Republicans Ken Blackwell, Jim Petro, Pat Tiberi, and Linda Reidelbach, loosed from the usual constraint of secular venues, felt free to preach, pray, and Bible thump with virtually no media scrutiny except the Free Press. Phil Heimlich, Hamilton County commissioner and future Petro gubernatorial running mate (at least for awhile) served as MC for the first part of the event, "The Gathering." Dr. John Willke, President of Life Issues Institute in Cincinnati and former president of the National Right to Life Committee MC'ed the PAC portion of the rally

The program booklet was jammed full of "facts" including a primer on "Manipulation of Public Opinion to Create Support for Roe v Wade," a "Mini Roe Quiz" and a directory of Ohio "Pregnancy Help Centers."

More instructive though, were the ads. Ken Blackwell appears in the full page inside front cover in a grinning headshot captioned: "Government has one first responsibility and that is to protect the sanctity of life. That is the first right of every citizen and the first responsibility of every government." Paid for by Citizens for Blackwell. State Rep. Ron Hood posed with a blond (presumably his wife) and a baby wearing a doofy headband. Numerous county ORTL affiliates, crisis pregnancy centers, social service agencies, financial planners, churches, and businesses located in mostly obscure Ohio towns (Fort Jennings, Lore City, Fort Laramie, Holgate, Hamler, Leipsic, New Riegel, St. Henry) filed out the booklet. The most disturbing, Henry County Right to Life's full page ad, featured a scary sonogram of a fetus in breech position waving an American flag: "LIFE, Liberty and the pursuit of HAPPINESS. It's not a choice, it's an American right." I still worry about how that flag got there. Ouch!

The most bizarre program note, though, came courtesy of Samuel A. Nigro, MD, "Child, Adolescent and Family Psychiatry" located in Beachwood and Lakewood. So wacky that ORTL posted a disclaimer at the bottom. Unfortunately, the document is not available online. Here is a small excerpt:

If it feels good, do it!" is an entrapment. Actually, the sex reflex outside of marriage is a form of excretion ("sexcretion" is accurate). There is much more to life than "feeling good" for 90 seconds. ....The early teenage and young adult body is so attractive and stimulating that, when not treated with dignity, if can be a violation of your privacy and an intrusion into the privacy of others.

Without saying, John Kerry was persona non gratia. If any Democrats for Life were present they kept their heads down. However, I did spot a couple Feminists for Life. In retrospect, the day belonged to Ken Blackwell and his runup to the governorship. Preaching and poudning, he beat Jim Petro hands down.

I attended that rally and was able to tape record most of the speakers. Unfortunately, I only learned of the event at the last minute and was not fully prepared to document the day. I arrived a few minutes late and was unable to record some of the opening comments. I also ran out of tape and was unable to record most of Linda Reidelbach's speech and none of the speech by Pat Tiberi, though I took notes which are included here. I had a camera malfunction and was forced to take pictures with a throwaway. Some of these pictures will appear in the transcripts I am posting with this article.

Transcripts are posted in order of appearance:

Jane Grimm, President, Ohio Right to Life
Keynote Speaker Kay Coles James,
Denise Mackura, Exe. Director Ohio Right to Life
Ohio Attorney General James Petro
Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth J. Blackwell
State Rep. Derrick Seaver
State Rep. Linda Reidelbach
US Rep. Pat Tiberi.

Hamilton County Commissioner, then Ohio Treasurer Joe Deters was scheduled to appear but cancelled due to a personal situation. Music was provided by the Springfield Grand Avenue Church of God Choir. I previously saw this choir perform at the 2000 D. James Kennedy Center for Reclaiming America for Christ conference in Fort Lauderdale, FL, where the choir re-wrote the Battle Hymn of the Republic, with the memorable line (among others) "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." WWJWHD? (What would Julia Ward Howe do?)

I transcribed all of the recordings and am solely responsible for their accuracy. The speeches are posted in order of appearance on separate pages. The transcripts contain all introductory remarks. Occasionally my own comments are added and will be noted as such.

Here is the complete schedule taken from the program booklet:

Noon: Gathering - Master of Ceremonies Phil Heimlich
Music - Grand Avenue Church of God Choir, Springfield, Ohio

Opening Prayer - Fr. Mark Hammond, St. Mary's Church, Columbus, Ohio

Star Spangled Banner

Pro-Life Pledge of Allegiance - Mary Leavitt, "The Flag Lady"

ORTL Welcome - Jane Grimm, president of Ohio Right to Life

Keynote Speaker- The Honorable Kay Coles James

What's Your Roe IQ - Denise Mackura, Executive Director of Ohio Right to Life

The Future Presents

1:45: PAC Rally - Worthington Christian High School Band

Why Vote ProLife

Dynamic Duet - When Will I Be Heard

Introduction of Speakers - Dr. John C .Willke, President of Life Issues Institute

Attorney General Jim Petro

Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell

Treasurer of State Joe Deters

State Representative Derrick Seaver

State Representative Linda Reidelbach

US Congressman Pat Tiberi

Recognition of Elected Officials - Dr. John C Willke

Music - Grand Avenue Church of God Choir

Closing Prayer - Jeff Silleck, President of Columbus Right to Life.

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