by Sandy Theis, Spokeswoman for Healthy Families Ohio

Abortion opponents from Operation Rescue have a new, high-tech tool. It’s the successor to the Wanted Posters used  in the past – posters that featured abortion providers and appear to have led to the murders of several of them.  The new tool is a nationwide, online, state-by-state list of providers, complete with physical descriptions, address and other information intended to make them easy to hunt down. Rachel Maddow recently provided a comprehensive history lesson on these tactics. Please take a look at it. She explains it better than I ever could.

These so-called “pro-life” supporters are unashamed of their well-established methods of intimidation. In fact, they are downright proud of them. They insist that the Wanted Posters did not encourage the murders.  They emphasize that the new on-line tool is simply a way to inform the public who is living among them.

I don’t believe that.  Neither do many pro-life supporters. Yet too many pro-life leaders are sitting silently as some of their peers encourage the murder of law-abiding doctors and attempt to limit life-saving health care options for women.  Many of these silent types are faith leaders who normally preach the merits of civility, kindness, tolerance and the Golden Rule. Others are legislative leaders who normally stand up to bullies. Only abortion rights supporters have condemned the tactics.

The silence among pro-lifers comes amid a nationwide effort to limit abortions or ban them out right.  Ohio is among several states facing a back-door plan to ban abortion by asking voters to amend their state constitutions to give a fertilized egg the same legal and constitutional rights as a person.

I am working for Healthy Families Ohio, an organization created for the sole purpose of defeating Ohio Personhood. We believe the consequences of it range from dangerous to ridiculous.

Personhood contains no exception for rape or incest.  It could outlaw some of the safest and most effective methods of birth control. If our shared goal is fewer abortions, why limit contraceptive options?  Personhood has negative economic consequences as well. It could cripple Ohio’s highly acclaimed In Vitro Fertilization industry, hurting not only our economy but also couples who desperately want children and have the determination and financial resources to go the IVF route to get them.

Personhood is a more extreme version of the heartbeat bill pending in the state legislature. It seeks to ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. The measure is so extreme that it has failed to get support from more mainstream anti-abortion groups.  It is not too extreme for Operation Rescue which piled on this week by debuting billboards replete with mangled fetuses – and the name and contact information for the Senate President, asking supporters to call him and urge its passage.

A majority of Ohio voters support abortion rights. Even many who oppose abortion do not support the heartbeat bill or the personhood proposal.  But the extremists are louder, more willing to incite violence, bully their detractors and use lies, fear and graphic images to get their way.

The rest of us have truth, compassion, reason and numbers on our side.  So if you agree, call or write your legislator and urge defeat of heartbeat, vote for candidates who are like minded, help keep personhood off the ballot by refusing to sign their petitions and urge your clergy – if you have one – to speak out against bigotry, violence and extremism.