Abortion Reproductive Rights

Planned Parenthood Supporters Appear in Thousands to Counter-Protest Anti-Abortion Groups

Abortion rights signs, like “Women’s rights are human rights,” and pink “pussy hats,” which have become symbols of the Women’s March Global movement, juxtaposed anti-abortion protesters’ signs this past weekend, as abortion rights advocates counter-protested anti-abortion groups at Planned Parenthood locations across the country.

Nearly 150 collections of Planned Parenthood supporters turned out, ranging in size from dozens to thousands at parks, government buildings, and clinics in 45 states, and oftentimes even outnumbered the amount of anti-abortion protesters. In St. Paul, Minnesota, police reported that about 500 anti-abortion protesters were met by nearly 5,500 abortion rights protesters.

While many anti-abortion groups see President Trump, Vice President Pence, newly confirmed Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, and Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch as the answer to “hearing {their} trumpet call” to eventually overturning Roe v. Wade and defunding Planned Parenthood, supporters of the organization see the Trump administration as a serious threat to access to birth control, reproductive health services, and cancer screenings, which constitute the majority of services provided by Planned Parenthood.

Though Planned Parenthood is pleased with the amount of support they are receiving as the organization is under siege, the interim vice president of Planned Parenthood Mary Alice Carter released a statement on Saturday asking that supporters not carry out counter-protests outside of the organization’s health centers, due to concerns that “these rallies can often be intimidating, and can inadvertently prevent patients from getting the care they need.” Carter suggests, “Instead we encourage supporters to attend events away from health centers, become a patient escort, or rally outside their elected officials offices.”

Typically it is not an outpouring of supporters present outside of women’s health clinics, but rather groups engaged in anti-abortion activity. According to the Feminist Majority Foundation’s (FMF) 2016 National Clinic Violence Survey released last week, the overwhelming majority of clinics (91.1 percent) experienced some type of anti-abortion activity—such as protesting—in the first half of 2016, with 63.2 percent of providers experiencing activity at least once a week, and a quarter of clinics experiencing it every day.

FMF produced a spotlight video to accompany the release of the survey called “Walking the Gauntlet” to demonstrate the extreme tactics employed by the anti-abortion industry to intimidate patients, staff and doctors in front of the clinics. These may appear to be ordinary protesters, but many are in fact trained operatives engaged in a systematic campaign to shut down access to women’s health clinics.

Planned Parenthood has been under increasing scrutiny since the 2015 release of the fraudulent videos by the so-called Center for Medical Progress (CMP), an anti-abortion group that falsely accused Planned Parenthood of illegally selling fetal tissue. The now thoroughly debunked videos ignited 13 state and 3 Congressional investigations, each of which found zero evidence of wrongdoing. Planned Parenthood is proceeding with a federal racketeering lawsuit against CMP.

Against the backdrop of the misleading videos, the 2016 National Clinic Violence Survey found that the number of clinics experiencing the most severe threats and violence has skyrocketed since 2014, from 19.7 percent to 34.2 percent. Severe violence and threats include death threats, stalking, and blocking access to clinics. Half of clinics in the United States (49.5) experienced at least one incident of severe violence and/or severe harassment, such as break-ins or vandalism.

Become a Feminist First Responder to support clinics under attack. There are a number of activities you can choose from, including becoming a clinic escort, volunteering as a legal observer, and providing emergency security assistance to clinics under siege.

Read the full report of the survey results here.

Sources: Reuters 2/11; FMF 2/9; Common Dreams 2/11; Planned Parenthood 2/11

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