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Ohio March for Life rally draws anti-abortion activists to the Statehouse

Ohioans who oppose abortion converged on the Ohio Statehouse Wednesday for a rally and a parade that they called a "March for Life."

The crowd listened to a live praise band. They prayed. And they cheered as speaker after speaker told the group why they opposed abortion.

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life Education and Defense Fund said, “The laws are critically important, right? They are critically important but changing hearts, it’s even more important. Changing hearts and minds — that is the most important thing."

Another highlighted speaker was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s niece, Alveda King, who said abortion is a civil rights issue.

“If we don’t know our past and our history, we will repeat it," King said.

The crowd then joined King in singing "This Little Light of Mine."

Some Republican Ohio lawmakers were also there to rally the crowd.

Rep. Jena Powell (R-Arcanum) said the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that allowed abortion nationwide, was not the end of the fight.

“We must pass a life at conception piece of legislation, and we need to do it quickly. We need to stop chemical abortions in our state," Powell said. "And we need to stop corporations from coercing employees across state lines and paying for their abortions.”

"The fight here in Ohio is just beginning," Powell said.

Powell and her fellow Republican lawmakers will likely be considering legislation after the November election that could ban abortion even further than the current ban, which has been put on hold by a court until October 12.

That ban prohibits abortion at the point fetal cardiac activity can be detected, as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. It was in effect from June 24 until early September, when a Hamilton County Court judge put a hold on it. But the state is fighting to have the ban reinstated and it could be put back in place at any time.

After the rally, hundreds then marched through downtown Columbus, up High Street, north of the Ohio Statehouse.

Bill Gavin of Columbus was one of them. He said he has opposed abortion since he explored civil rights issues in college.

“There was a lot of commonalities between the abortion issue, the vulnerable, people that couldn’t speak for themselves, the weak just like slaves in the past, Jewish Holocaust survivors, et cetera. So, basically it became very convicting to me to be part of a movement to protect the most vulnerable in our society," Gavin said.

Jamie Scheridan of Columbus was marching with a group of college students that oppose abortion.

"Today, we are just here to let people know that we want to abolish abortion here in Ohio. We want protection at conception. We are not going to stop until every single person born and pre-born in the state of Ohio is protected," Scheridan said.

At one point during the rally, drum beats could be heard coming from the sidewalk in front of the Statehouse.

A lone abortion rights advocate was pounding the drum as those who opposed abortion prayed over her.

Later, Cole Wojdacz, statewide field manager for Pro-Choice Ohio, said she was fascinated by the rally, considering the impact of the state’s six-week abortion ban that took effect in June.

"You know it's fascinating for me to see so many people come together to celebrate the absolute tragedies that they are advocating to be inflicted upon Ohioans. We saw very clear examples of Ohioans suffering under the six-week ban prior to the restraining order of the Hamilton County judge. We saw the horror on Ohioans and these folks are celebrating that today," Wojdacz said.

Earlier this summer, after the state's six-week ban was put in place, people who support abortion rights held a rally of their own at the Ohio Statehouse.

Wojdacz said more people support abortion rights and downplayed today's event with people who want more abortion bans.

"I think people are able to see this gathering for what it is. It is a very loud expression from a very small minority," Wojdacz said.

Both sides in the abortion debate say it is a key concern in this November's election because the party that wins will have control over key legislation involving the issue.

Contact Jo Ingles at jingles@statehousenews.org.