Supreme Court memo leak reignites abortion debate in Stark County

·6 min read
Anti-abortion protesters Paul Crowly, from left, Gary Cerrone and Christy Ballor stand outside Planned Parenthood of Canton.
Anti-abortion protesters Paul Crowly, from left, Gary Cerrone and Christy Ballor stand outside Planned Parenthood of Canton.

CANTON – The debate over abortion experienced a jolt last week after a report emerged that an opinion memo leaked from the U.S. Supreme Court appears to indicate that the court is preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Paul Crowley, an anti-abortion activist from Waynesburg who regularly pickets the Planned Parenthood clinic at 2663 Cleveland Ave. NW, said he's heartened by the possibility that Roe v. Wade may be overturned, which would give states authority over legalizing abortion.

The Canton clinic does not perform abortions.

More: How many abortions are actually performed in the US? Rates have declined for decades.

More: If Roe v. Wade is overturned, here's how abortion laws in each state will stand

"I'm glad the news is good," Crowley said. "As far as how it came out, I'm disgusted."

On Friday, Crowley and a small band of protesters stood in the rain, including Christy Ballor of Alliance, regional director of Silent No More, who carried a sign: "I regret my abortion. Ask me."

Ballor said she had an abortion in 1973 when she was 17 to keep her family from knowing that she was sexually active.

"I would not have had it if it had been illegal," she said. "My boyfriend encouraged me. We went to New York. The Planned Parenthood in Canton didn't do abortions but they made all the arrangements. It was legal in Ohio but there were no facilities available."

Abortions decline in Ohio

According to the Ohio Department of Health's Bureau of Vital Statistics, abortion in the state has been in a steady decline since 1977. The high point was 50,000 procedures in 1982. In 2020, that figure stood at 20,000.

In 2020, the latest year that statewide statistics are available, 579 Stark County residents had an abortion. It was the highest number since 2014 when there were 615.

Abortions in Ohio

Ballor's regret was immediate.

"I knew it wasn't a clump of cells like they told me," she said. "I knew I had lost my baby forever."

Ballor said she turned to drugs to assuage her guilt.

"It wasn't until I got down on my knees and asked God to help me; I had a profound conversion," she said.

'The vast majority of people of faith support access to abortion care.'

The Rev. Jennifer Butler, CEO of Faith in Public Life, a national network of clergy which has members in Ohio, said access to abortion must remain intact.

"The vast majority of people of faith support access to abortion care," Butler said in a statement. "We believe that decisions about starting or growing a family are personal, moral, nuanced and should not be subject to the approval of any court or politician.

"And whatever our perspective on abortion care, we can all agree that respect for the pregnant person's moral autonomy must guide our policies about abortion care and that no one should be criminalized for seeking the care they need. ... Abortion care is still legal today and must remain so — and it must be accessible to all, without barriers."

Anti-abortion protester Gary Cerrone, who gathered with Crowley and Ballor, said he's sympathetic to parents of unwanted babies, and that support should be given to women in a crisis pregnancy, from counseling to adoption services.

"Having a child is an incredible challenge, with eternal consequences," he said. "I don't want to force any woman or man to be a parent, but they already are parents. They are from the moment their child is conceived."

According to a new poll published by the Pew Research Center: "The survey found 61% of Americans believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases, while 37% said it should be illegal most or all of the time. Most of the public, however, has at least somewhat mixed feelings on the matter: Only 19% said it should be legal in all cases, and a minuscule 8% said it should be illegal in all instances."

Kellie Copeland, executive director of Pro-Choice Ohio, said the organization is mobilizing Ohioans to ensure that abortion remains legal.

"We are mobilizing pro-choice voters to turn out to vote in record numbers in November," she said. "Everyone should be able to access abortion in their community without shame, stigma, or delay. It’s going to take all of us to taking action to protect and expand abortion care in Ohio."

In response to the argument by abortion-rights advocates that having an abortion is based on a woman having autonomy over her own body, Crowley replied, "There's another person inside of her."

"If a woman wants to get a piercing or a tattoo, that's up to her," he said. "The baby inside her has its own DNA, its own fingerprints. It's not so much as a religious issue; I follow the science."

The Rev. David Ryan, senior pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Plain Township, said pregnancy changes things.

"I think this argument is off balance too often because it is mixing in a hard crisis with a needed, thoughtful conviction about the nature and gift of life," he said. "Thankfully, no one's life is valuable only to themselves, but God created us for relationship and to flourish in a relationship with him and each other. A pregnancy is not private, personal, or autonomous is it? It involves at least two people and really many more than that considering all the related family and friends involved with the parent(s)."

Copeland strongly disagrees.

"If not her then who does?" she asked. "No one has ever told a man that he does not have autonomy over his body. I would also note that the people who make that argument are the same people who have refused to support paid family leave, coverage for diapers through WIC or SNAP benefits, or funding to help families get quality affordable housing and childcare."

Why was the memo leaked?

People on both sides of the issue seem to agree there should be consequences for whoever leaked the memo.

Ballor said whoever did it should be disbarred and prosecuted.

"I think it was a political ploy to get the justices to change their minds," she said. "This was never a decision that should have been made by seven men. This is a decision that should be made by the people in the state legislatures."

Copeland argues that the leak overshadows a much bigger issue.

"Government should be transparent about decisions surrounding health care, but what’s far more important than this leaked document is the threat that it represents," she said.

She also contends that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, anti-choice politicians won't stop at abortion and that attempts will be made to unravel other privacy rights such as same-sex marriage.

Butler said the memo is an attack on fundamental freedoms that the Supreme Court must uphold.

"If enacted, politicians in dozens of states will outlaw abortion care altogether, placing countless lives in jeopardy and most severely harming people already pushed to the margins: Black, brown, Native, immigrant and LGBTQ communities," she said.

Ryan rejects those claims.

"I think this question confuses the discussion by throwing in an element of fear and does not help us to focus on the more fundamental questions of this situation," he said. "The more fundamental question is the legitimacy of authority and proper function of each branch of government given by our Constitution and the proper balance given between federal and state laws."

Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or

On Twitter: @cgoshayREP

This article originally appeared on The Repository: Leaked memo renews abortion debate in Stark County