Thanks to the false claims against the country's largest reproductive health provider, zealous anti-repro-rights activists are attacking clinics, regardless of the services they provide.
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What do you call a Planned Parenthood protest that doesn’t actually happen at a Planned Parenthood clinic? If you are an anti-abortion activist, you probably call it just another Saturday morning.
As we enter into the second month of the ongoing attack on the country’s largest reproductive-health provider, abortion opponents have taken the opportunity to coordinate not one but two national multi-city mass protests. Claiming that surreptitiously recorded, highly edited videos prove that Planned Parenthood abortion clinics are “selling” baby-body parts in order to maximize profit for the organization, activists have parlayed their own so far unsubstantiated narrative into an excuse to escalate their own tactics outside of the clinics themselves.
While red-state politicians have taken advantage of the frenzy to launch failed investigations and promote potentially federally illegal “defunding” schemes, activists have been more focused on local, clinic-based actions.
The first set of protests—the “Women Betrayed” rallies—were organized primarily at state capitals and other legislative locations, the recent “Protest Planned Parenthood” rallies were a return to everyday clinic protesting basics. Essentially, this Saturday national protest was just a regular clinic picket Saturday, just with busloads more people than usual. While participants may have claimed they met in response to the ongoing videos put out by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress, in reality the accusations of profit in tissue donation were just a convenient excuse to convince more people to come just the stalwart clinic-protesting regulars.
Case in point: According to conservative news sources, 320 Planned Parenthoods were protested in 50 states across the country on Saturday. According to an email release from Citizen’s for a Pro-Life Society, one of the sponsoring organizations, supporters expect the final tally to be close to 70,000 national participants.
“Our primary message is the shocking revelation that Planned Parenthood sells baby parts,” Pro-Life Action League executive director Eric Scheidler told the Christian Post on Saturday, according to One News Now. “While this story has dominated the pro-life and Christian press over the past month, many regular Americans have still never heard about it.”
There’s only one small problem with the protest sites: Most of them had absolutely nothing to do with the tissue-donation controversy in the first place. In fact, a vast number of the Planned Parenthood clinics being protested didn’t even provide abortion as a service to patients. And even more bizarrely, some protests were held at independent abortion providers rather than Planned Parenthood locations.
In Arizona, Alabama, and Texas, protesters use the “Protest Planned Parenthood” event pages to recruit and coordinate Saturday morning protests at independent abortion providers, despite these clinics having no bearing on the current battle over alleged tissue donation misconduct. One such group of 100 protesters met at McAllen, Texas, at the Whole Women’s Health clinic in the Rio Grande Valley.
Sofia Peña, a pro-choice activist with South Texans for Reproductive Justice and Frontera Fund couldn’t help but notice the protesters were just taking advantage of yet another chance to gather en masse outside an abortion provider. “We’re obviously not outside of Planned Parenthood; we’re outside of Whole Woman’s Health,” she told local reporter Daniel Flores. “A lot of people don’t know that Planned Parenthood’s services in the Valley—at least in Hidalgo County—were not abortion services. They were breast-cancer screenings, cervical-cancer screenings, STI screenings—basic health things that people can’t get other places because they have low income or no insurance. I think it’s ironic that folks are protesting a place that actually helps save women’s lives.”
While Whole Women’s Health was a non–Planned Parenthood abortion provider who got targeted anyway, the only clinic in Kentucky that was protested was a Planned Parenthood that didn’t offer terminations. Breitbart News interviewed one protester praising the over 500 people who attended the Planned Parenthood Louisville rally, conveniently forgetting to mention that no Planned Parenthood affiliates in Kentucky even offer abortions.
“I found it pretty comical that they would find it worthwhile to protest a center that people rely on for birth control, health screenings, and information, but I was not surprised,” one local clinic escort told DAME Magazine. “What made it even more laughable to me was that these bullies came to protest at a health center that not only isn’t providing abortions (though I wish they would) but the center was not even open that day! There were no potential clients to pray at or attempt to coerce. There was not any staff to admonish to Hell. To me this turned their protest into not much more than a rally. A pitiful rally full of misinformed bullies.”
Even when abortion opponents did protest Planned Parenthood offices that actually provide pregnancy terminations, they were often protesting clinics that didn’t have tissue-donation programs. That was the case in Columbus, Ohio, where national sponsor Created Equal brought over 200 protesters and massive amounts of graphic images—including a Truth Truck—to the event.
Members of Sassy Sexism Smashers, a local non-profit group, counter protested the rally, despite being out numbered and, according to one member, intimidated by some of the more aggressive of the anti-abortion protesters. “They actually went as far as to try to stand in the road to try to cover us up,” one member said. “We had a group of girls show up later and didn’t have signs, and Created Equal surrounded them and started yelling. It was just a creepy time. I had a man standing behind me for 30 minutes telling me about the solar system and how it proves there is a God but my ‘woman’s brain’ couldn’t understand it.”
“Some [counter-protesters] only showed up for a small amount of time,” she added. “I think they were afraid. It was crazy.”
To be fair, Saturday’s protests were a massive recruiting success for abortion opponents. The tens of thousands that they managed to get onto the sidewalks outside clinics was a vast improvement from the regular every Saturday morning gathering of graphic sign holders, rosary prayers, “sidewalk counselors” and street preachers that normally try to dissuade a patient from entering a clinic or a doctor from performing a termination.
But this wasn’t about stopping tissue donation or defunding Planned Parenthood, unless you count them as the first steps in ending safe, legal abortion access all together.
Images courtesy of Sassy Sexism Smashers
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