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Largest Pro-Life Group Boots Ohio Affiliate for Opposing Same-Sex Marriage

Groups disagree: Is Sen. Rob Portman, first pro-life politician to turn pro-gay, now friend or foe?

America's oldest and largest pro-life group continues to have trouble with its Ohio affiliates.

The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) has severed ties with an Ohio affiliate, Cleveland Right to Life (CRTL), after the Cleveland group added "support for traditional marriage and the family to its Mission Statement." NRLC also cited CRTL's recent criticism of Ohio Sen. Rob Portman—who has a strong pro-life record—after he became the first Republican senator to break ranks and publicly support same-sex marriage.

NRLC president Carol Tobias informed CRTL leaders of the decision in a letter (published by CRTL) which stated:

Recently, Cleveland Right to Life announced that it has embraced an advocacy agenda that includes issues beyond the right to life. Moreover, it promptly issued public criticisms of and implicit political threats against a U.S. Senator who has supported the right-to-life position on every vote that has come before the Senate, and who is a sponsor of major NRLC-backed bills—because the chapter disagrees with his position on a non-right-to-life issue. By these actions, Cleveland Right to Life has violated National Right to Life policy, causing the chapter to disaffiliate itself from NRLC.

CTRL updated its mission statement in June to include the following sentence: "So as to foster a culture of life we promote and defend the right to life of all innocent human beings and reject such practices as abortion, euthanasia, infanticide, and same-sex marriage that are contrary to 'the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God.'" But NRLC says the inclusion of "same-sex marriage" expands the organization's platform beyond pro-life issues and, as such, violates policy.

"The success the right-to-life movement has experienced over the past 40 years has depended on maintaining our single-issue focus on life," Tobias told World News Service.

CRTL director Molly Smith, to whom Tobias's letter was addressed, told local media that the move didn't make a lot of sense—unless it was done in collusion with Sen. Portman. "Why they would do it, except that they are getting pressured from Sen. Portman, is the only thing that we can surmise," she told Cleveland's Sun News.

In any case, NRLC's disaffiliation hasn't left CRTL out to dry. According to a statement yesterday, CRTL will continue working with other state and local organization chapters. In addition, CRTL says it "has received an outpouring of support from its local members, other regional and national right-to-life organizations, and pro-life individuals from around the country. ... In less than five days, over $15,000 in new donations were received from generous donors across the U.S."

This isn't the first time Ohio and its Right to Life chapters been in the spotlight over pro-life tensions. In 2011, CT noted how Ohio's "heartbeat bill"—which aimed to ban abortions in the state once a fetal heartbeat was detectable—caused six county chapters of Ohio Right to Life, including the state's oldest and largest chapter in Cincinnati, to withdraw their membership from NRLC because of the organization's opposition to the bill; NRLC remained neutral on it.

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