Cincinnati Right to Life was founded by pro-life heroes Dr. John (Jack) Willke and his wife Barbara. Dr. Willke was a third-generation physician, engaging in family practice and obstetrics. Coincidentally, Mrs. Willke worked as a nursing instructor and later served her family as a full-time mother, caring for their six children. They were internationally renowned and are, to this day, considered the patriarch and matriarch of the pro-life movement.
With incredible foresight of the trajectory of culture and society, Dr. and Mrs. Willke initially founded Ohio Right to Life in 1967 in Cincinnati. A few years later, they moved it to Columbus and went on to establish Cincinnati Right to Life in 1971, beginning with the legislative arm. They quickly recognized that pro-life lawmaking and education must go hand-in-hand. Consequently, they founded the educational arm of Cincinnati Right to Life in 1973 to educate on a range of bioethical issues, including abortion, human experimentation, and euthanasia. Finally, Dr. and Mrs. Willke founded the Cincinnati Right to Life Political Action Committee also in the early 1970s to inform the public of pro-life candidates through campaign endorsements. The couple shared the chairmanship of Cincinnati Right to Life in the early years and maintained their involvement for the rest of their lives.
Furthermore, they stimulated the organization and founding of Birthright in Cincinnati, Ohio, serving on its original international board. Dr. Willke also served as president of Life Issues Institute which was founded in 1991, an educational foundation headquartered initially in Cincinnati. Mrs. Willke was instrumental in establishing pro-life women help centers in the metro area and served as the president of Cincinnati Right to Life until her retirement from pro-life work.
To this day, Cincinnati Right to Life carries on the mission entrusted to us by Dr. and Mrs. Willke. We have been at the forefront of every major pro-life victory, most recently seeing our state through the passage of the Heartbeat Bill. Over the years, we have adapted to new techniques and technologies, but we have never strayed from the course to abolish abortion and prevent euthanasia in Greater Cincinnati and beyond.
More about the Willkes:
Dr. and Mrs. Willke’s work extended far beyond Cincinnati and Ohio. Dr. Willke was a physician, author, lecturer, radio personality, and expert in human sexuality with international leadership in the pro-life movement. Furthermore, he was a founding life member of the National Alliance for Family Life. Dr. Willke served as president of the National Right to Life Committee for 14 years, and founded the International Right to Life Federation (IRLF) in 1983, serving as its president for years. As president of IRLF, Dr. Willke traveled with Mrs. Willke extensively overseas, lecturing in 83 different countries and meeting with world leaders, including members of Congress, Parliaments, Pope John Paul II and multiple presidents.
While the Willkes had several publications, they are best known for their book called Abortion: Questions and Answers. This book was a critical handbook for those working and advocating in early days of the pro-life movement.
Dr. and Mrs. Willke were married for 65 years. Mrs. Willke died in 2013, followed by Dr. Willke in 2015. The late Congressman Henry Hyde’s quote is particularly fitting for these pro-life warriors.
"When the time comes, as it surely will, when we face that awesome moment, the final judgment, I've often thought, as Fulton Sheen wrote, that it is a terrible moment of loneliness. You have no advocates, you are there alone standing before God -- and a terror will rip your soul like nothing you can imagine. But I really think that those in the pro-life movement will not be alone. I think there'll be a chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world -- and they will plead for everyone who has been in this movement. They will say to God, 'Spare him, because he loved us!'"
More information about Dr. and Mrs. Willke
A Tribute to Barbara Willke – (https://www.lifeissues.org/2000/11/bn4-16-13/)
Pro-Life Pioneer Called to Heaven – (https://www.lifeissues.org/2013/06/pro-life-pioneer-called-to-heaven/)
Dr. Jack Willke Tribute – (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzPPLD69iAI)
Willke, A Catholic Doctor and Longtime Pro-Life Advocate, Dies at 89 – (https://www.thecatholictelegraph.com/21789/21789)
National Right to Life Mourns the Death of Dr. John C. Willke – (https://www.nrlc.org/communications/releases/2015/022315release/)
Pro-Life Pioneer John C. Willke Dies at Age 89 – (https://www.lifeissues.org/2015/02/pro-life-pioneer-john-c-willke-dies-at-age-89/)
Remembering Dr. Willke – (https://www.lifeissues.org/2015/06/remembering-dr-willke/)
Dr. Willke's Legacy Marked by Commitment to True Reproductive Health – (https://pregnancyhelpnews.com/dr-willke-s-legacy-marked-by-commitment-to-true-reproductive-health)
Articles authored by Dr. John Willke with Life Issues Institute – (https://www.lifeissues.org/author/jcwillke/)