Trish Bennett, Editor
CIRCLEVILLE – One issue. Two diametrically opposed points of view. No real common ground. That was the recipe for a sometimes heated confrontation Tuesday between a pro-life group and Planned Parenthood supporters on the sidewalks of Lewis Avenue.
The scene is the site of the Circleville Planned Parenthood office, which for years has quietly offered women’s health services locally for several hours per week every Tuesday.
Last August, Elijah DeMint and a group of pro-life activists began what they call “peaceful protests” at the facility in an attempt to change the minds of women seeking abortion. Armed with Bibles, prayer, leaflets and signs bearing graphic depictions of aborted fetuses, the group stands on the sidewalk each week talking to women entering the facility about their choices.
What some call talk, though, others call harassment. Such is the belief of a group of pro-choice and women’s rights supporters who also took to the sidewalks Tuesday, promoting Planned Parenthood’s accessible health care options and a woman’s right to choose.
The “peaceful protest” became heated several times on Tuesday, to the point where Circleville Police officers responded on at least two separate occasions. Both groups took photos and cell phone videos of the confrontations and what they considered transgressions by the opposing group.
Complaints ranged from permits required by city ordinance to an accusation of assault that was quickly dismissed. The one thing that remained, though, is the sense there could be no compromise between the two groups and their strongly-held beliefs.
When asked why the pro-life group was protesting abortion at a facility that does not perform them, DeMint said he had no proof they don’t.
“That’s what they say, but we don’t have facts to prove that,” he said. “I haven’t been inside there myself. I’ve never seen it. But [Planned Parenthood] has been doing other things going against the law, so you have to wonder.”
They don’t draw the line at abortion, though, and members of the pro-life group also spoke against any form of birth control or contraception.
“It’s unrealistic,” said Sarah Peters, a pro-choice activist and one of the organizers of the pro-choice counter-protest. “The most effective way to keep women from getting an abortion is if they don’t get pregnant, but if they do choose abortion, it needs to be safe and legal.”
The pro-choice group spoke in support of Planned Parenthood’s access to women’s health care, cancer screenings, information and sex education.
They also condemned the others for harassing and impeding people’s rights by confronting women as they arrived for the appointments at Planned Parenthood. Peters personally escorted at least one woman to the door of the facility when the pro-life protesters verbally confronted her on Tuesday.
Other pro-choice supporters, including Hannah Utt and Sherry Parks, agreed the pro-life group had every right to protest, but they believe those rights end where the rights of another begin.
“Their religion does not trump our rights,” Parks said.
DeMint, however, said he disagreed and that changing the behavior of others is the ultimate goal.
“We only wish to receive God’s blessing on our nation,” he said. “But as long as some continue taking the lives of the helpless, how can we ask God to bless us?”
The one thing both groups do agree upon is their protests will not end any time soon. The pro-life activists intend to continue their presence on Lewis Avenue each Tuesday, and the pro-choice group has begun the process of obtaining a permit from the city to do the same.
Chief Shawn Baer, Circleville Police Department, said Tuesday’s events created only minor disturbances, and both groups have an equal right to protest as long as they obtain the proper permits and remain within the law.
This article originally appeared on The Pickaway News Journal