Tyler Joswick / Asst. photo editor
As the all-time leading solo tackler in Ohio State history, former Buckeye Chris Spielman was accustomed to hearing the crowd roar after each hit. When Spielman tackled the issue of abortion on Tuesday night, however, you could hear a pin drop in the U.S. Bank Conference Theater at the Ohio Union.
The two-time All-American linebacker was the main speaker at the Pro-Life Day event, along with other pro-life advocates from Ohio. The Ohio Right to Life, Ohio State Pro-Life Club and OSU College Republicans sponsored the event.
Spielman said he has always been pro-life, and that his faith has helped guide that position.
“I believe that all life begins at conception, and that every life is sacred,” Spielman told The Lantern before the event. “That doesn’t mean I don’t sympathize with those who have to make agonizing decisions, but I just believe that each life has meaning and that no life is an accident.”
Spielman explained to the crowd later that he and his family had to make one such “agonizing” decision during his late-wife Stefanie’s battle with breast cancer.
Stefanie was on a medication during one of her earlier battles with cancer when the doctor informed her that she was pregnant with her fourth child. The doctors said that no child had ever lived after birth when the mother was on this particular medication, and that she could either go off the medication and try to have the child, or have an abortion.
After prayer and discussion with his family, Spielman said ultimately he placed the decision in God‘s hands, though his initial reaction was to protect his wife. With the family’s faith, Stefanie went through with the pregnancy.
“I’m happy and humbled to say that baby girl is playing softball tonight as a beautiful, bouncing 8-year-old,” Spielman said. “The moral of the story is this: I believe we change people’s hearts, minds and souls not through hatred or intimidation. Like you, I hate the act of abortion, but we have no right to hate a single person.”
Patrick Murphy, a fourth-year in operations management, said he showed up for the event when he saw Spielman would be speaking but did not expect the event to be so emotional.
“It was a lot more touching than I anticipated it to be,” Murphy said. “He got really personal with us. He is very real and I really appreciate him sharing that story.”
Spielman also suggested that college students against abortion may be in the minority, but encouraged them to fight with “passion” for what they believe in.
Executive Director of Ohio Right to Life Mike Gonidakis agreed that kindness should be used to extend a pro-life message, but said that college students are actually more receptive to the pro-life cause than most people believe.
Gonidakis cited a Gallup poll released recently that showed young people (ages 19-29) are beginning to more greatly identify with the pro-life movement. Despite the results, Gonidakis said there is work to do in the Columbus area, as Franklin County was one of few Ohio counties to see an increase in abortion.
“We’re going to focus on Ohio State to get a compassionate message out,” Gonidakis said. “That’s how we think we reach people, not pounding on the table.”
Though the trio of organizations hosted the event, College Republicans coordinated the event to cap off their Conservative Week, an annual event held by College Republicans that includes “Fun with Guns” and a “PETA BBQ.”
Chairwoman of College Republicans Meagan Cyrus said having a pro-life message is important both for the Republican agenda and the campus, and said she was thrilled to have Spielman on campus to speak.
“I think the biggest misconception is that most students are not pro-life,” Cyrus said. “We’ve had our usual progressive groups (resist) but everyone has been pretty respectful. I mean, it is pretty hard to disrespect someone with a great background as a Buckeye like Chris Spielman.”
Although the event leaders want to see abortion end as a whole, Gonidakis said the solution is far from simple.
“At the end of the day, ending abortion won’t be passing one law, or electing one man or one woman,” Gonidakis said. “It’s culture too. It takes all three of those things coming together and ultimately, we will win this battle.”
Spielman said he will not back down from his pro-life advocacy.
“I get backlash for a lot of things I do, but I also know what I believe (on abortion), so I‘ve got to stand up for it,” Spielman said. “At least I am not lukewarm. You know where I stand.”