I went to an anti-abortion event and found confusing messages, no crowds and the will to fight harder

The few protesters who showed up agreed 'it's not fair to be raped' but insisted 'it is never medically necessary to have an abortion.' That's false.

As a columnist, it is not uncommon to receive event invitations from people who hold values they know to be in direct opposition to your own. An attempt to goad, perhaps, as if to say: Attend if you dare.  

In my experience, this outreach comes most frequently from groups committed to denying women access to legal and safe abortions. Sometimes, their preprinted postcards fill USPS bins deposited on the front of porch of our home with handwritten postscripts from self-declared Christians who hope for our eternal damnation in the bowels of hell. In their world, God is a bully. 

This past week, I heard from Mark Harrington, founder of Created Equal, an anti-abortion group headquartered in Columbus, Ohio. This is a small but vocal group of extremists who oppose abortion even in cases of rape or incest, or when the woman’s life is threatened. For context, as The New York Times reported in 2019, an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that "strong majorities supported the rape and incest exception, including more than 30 percent of those who describe themselves as pro-life."

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Harrington’s message landed in my personal email account at 7:05 a.m., letting me know some of his activists were coming to Lorain County Community College “to show graphic videos via our JumboTron, depicting the gruesome reality of abortion, and to engage students in conversation about this human injustice.” 

Reality of abortion

Harrington loves his "JumboTron," which broadcasts graphic images the group claims come from abortions. 

Anti-abortion protesters around two pro-choice demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 01, 2021.

In his email, Harrington mentioned Texas’ recent anti-abortion law and the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court decision that could gut, if not overturn, Roe v. Wade. “We have seen a substantial increase of protestors at our outreaches. We have faced problems with administration attempting to censor our content, police taking down our signs and violating our free speech rights, crowds of protestors, people stealing and vandalizing signs, our signs being thrown in the trash, and more.”  

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Goodness. What chaos might they encounter on the grounds of this community college in northeast Ohio?  

Off I went. 

No 'JumboTron,' no crowds

I’ve visited LCCC many times over the years. It is located about a half-hour’s drive west of Cleveland, as is the community pulse for Lorain County. After I arrived, I spent more than a half-hour driving around the growing campus in search of the fabled "JumboTron" and crowds of protesters. 

Finally, I spotted two police officers chatting in a parking lot through open car windows. They directed me to the courtyard behind the library, and said the activists there were wearing body cameras.  

The windy courtyard was all but abandoned, except for nine activists with body cams strapped to their chests and the occasional student walking to and from class.  

No "JumboTron." 

“Things didn’t work out logistically,” administrative director Silas McCulfor said. Something about tunnels under sidewalks, which could collapse under the weight of it.

I wanted to talk further to McCulfor, but first, he said, I had to get the OK from his colleague, media assistant Ava Frank, 20. She joined Created Equal right out of high school and engages in “sidewalk counseling,” as she called it, which involves trying to talk women out of abortions as they enter a Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbus.  

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Ava Frank is the media assistant for Created Equal, which she joined right out of high school.

This is not harassment, she insisted. “We just wave to them as they drive (into the parking lot) and try to offer resources.” She and her fellow activists admitted they are seldom successful in changing the minds of people who arrive at the clinic.

That is not surprising, Iris Harvey said in an interview the next day. She is president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio. “When people make up their mind to have an abortion, they understand what they need,” Harvey said. “If they’ve come into our health center, they get the care and the counseling and the health services they need.” 

While on campus, with Frank’s permission, I also interviewed 21-year-old Lexie Hall, who joined Created Equal after high school and was attempting to convince student Nadya Shibley that rape is no reason to allow a woman to get an abortion. 

Hall reverted to what I soon learned was a common talking point: We would never dream of killing a 2-year-old child. She repeatedly said this as she pointed to one of the placards – which, it should be noted, did not have a picture of a 2-year-old child.  

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Lexie Hall is a 21-year-old member of Created Equal, which she joined after high school.

The murder of a toddler has nothing to do with a woman who is pregnant because she was raped, which Shibley gently tried to point out: “I’m not totally OK with (abortion), but there is a small part of me that does feel like people that have been sexually assaulted and raped shouldn’t have to go through the trauma of looking at that kid and seeing their rapist every single time. … That could hurt them and bring back so much trauma.” 

Sure, Hall agreed, “it’s not fair to be raped, period.” 


“Maybe this will help you understand where I’m coming from,” she said. “If there was a couple and one day – and they have a 2-year-old son – one day the man rapes the woman, right? He goes off to prison. … And now this woman is left raising that 2-year-old boy. Every single time she looks at the 2-year-old boy, she is reminded of her rapist. Would you ever justify – would she ever be justified – in killing that 2-year-old little boy even though she is reminded of her rapist every single time she sees him? No. Because we recognize the value of that 2-year-old little boy and that he’s innocent.” 

Shibley remained polite. “I would love to talk,” she said, “but I actually have a class to go to.” 

Still here, girded for battle

In my conversation with Hall, she insisted “it is never medically necessary to have an abortion.” This is false, but she was uninterested in that data, I found. Even a pregnant woman with cancer requiring prompt treatment to survive is out of luck in Hall’s version of justice. “We would never think, with someone with a terminal illness who’s born, we would never make our reaction, ‘OK, let’s kill them,’ ” she said. “We don’t think that that is actually going to be something that’s going to be good for the woman.”  

When I questioned how she could claim to be an expert on women she has never met, we returned to discussing how wrong it would be to kill a 2-year-old. 

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Finally, I returned to Silas McCulfor. He talked about murdering toddlers and people who are “wanting to remove themselves from the position of parenthood.” After a lengthy back-and-forth about rape and pregnancy, I asked if he ever thought he was compounding a survivor’s trauma by insisting she carry the pregnancy to term. 

Silas McCulfor is administrative director of Created Equal.

“No,” he said. “I’m sure she’s experiencing more discomfort in the moment, but I think it’s what’s best for her and I think it’s important. If someone were about to kill a 2-year-old ...” 

In all these conversations, I was aware that I am not a member of their targeted campaign. I can no longer have children. To them, I am pointless. I thought about that as I walked away, past another one of the bloody placards and the same volunteer who had greeted me earlier. As with the others, I returned his smile and allowed him to believe that women like me are powerless to stop them.

There are millions of us who thought this battle would be long behind us.

Try shutting us up now.

Connie Schultz is a columnist for USA TODAY. She is a Pulitzer Prize winner whose novel, "The Daughters of Erietown," is a New York Times bestseller. Reach her at or on Twitter: @ConnieSchultz