WASHINGTON — More than 10,000 pro-life advocates gathered at some 227 protest locations in 43 states and the District of Columbia on Feb. 11 to call for the defunding of Planned Parenthood.
“This weekend was huge, but it was not the end,” said Mark Harrington of the pro-life group Created Equal. “We have momentum on our side. Now is the time to press forward.”
“The time has come to defund America’s abortion giant,” Harrington told CNA Feb. 14. “Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest abortion chain, killing over 300,000 babies each year, and nearly half of their billion-dollar budget comes from our tax dollars.”
The protests, organized under hashtags like #ProtestPP, were headed by the leaders of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, Created Equal and the Pro-Life Action League.
Organizers reported a crowd of about 200 supporters in Pittsburgh, 300 in Orange, California, 400 in Cincinnati, and 450 in St. Paul, Minnesota, to name a few locations.
“Abortion, to me, is the greatest evil of our time,” Delia Tyagi, a 36-year-old demonstrator from Arlington, Virginia, told Reuters. “Planned Parenthood has wronged women in a lot of ways. I feel like we have the momentum to finally defund them.”
Harrington characterized Planned Parenthood as “an independently wealthy entity.”
“Planned Parenthood’s business model is centered on abortion,” he said. “Women have other options for seeking primary care, contraception, STI testing and cancer screening.”
Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the U.S. While direct federal taxpayer funding for abortion is generally barred under law, it receives federal funding in Medicaid reimbursements and Title X programs for family planning and preventive health services.
The politically powerful organization took a heavy hit in 2015, with the release of investigative videos appearing to show it engaged in the illegal sale of fetal tissue and unborn baby parts for research. Despite a well-funded publicity campaign to counter the allegations, the issue has not gone away.
In January 2017, a report from the House Select Investigative Panel said that abuses and possible criminal violations are taking place in the fetal-tissue trade between abortion facilities and tissue harvesters.
David Daleiden, founder of the Center for Medical Progress, organized the undercover investigation. He addressed the Orange, California, rally.
“I’m confident that, together, if we keep the faith, take the next right step, at the end of the day, we will soon see a day when there will no longer be a price tag put on human life,” he said, according to Reuters.
Demonstrations of support for Planned Parenthood also took place the same weekend, sometimes at the same locations as the pro-life protests.
Planned Parenthood supporters sometimes outnumbered the pro-life demonstrators. Its leaders told Reuters that their supporters have been energized by the election of President Donald Trump, citing the hundreds of thousands of marchers who demonstrated in Washington and across the country the day after the inauguration in support of women’s rights and legal abortion.
Abortion backers have also run significant fundraising campaigns following the Trump election. As of late December, Planned Parenthood told the U.K. newspaper The Guardian that it had received more than 300,000 donations since the election, 40 times its normal donation figures.
For their part, hundreds of thousands of pro-life advocates attended the March for Life in Washington on Jan. 27, which included an unprecedented address from Vice President Mike Pence.
Advocates of defunding Planned Parenthood said legislators have better funding options.
Harrington cited a Chiaroscuro Foundation report saying that more than 1,000 federally qualified health centers in the U.S. offer similar services for women without providing abortion. He suggested these should be funded instead.
“Defunding Planned Parenthood is the right thing to do,” Harrington said. “Now it’s down to Congress and President Trump to fulfill their promise to defund Planned Parenthood, and do it now.”
He said the protests shouldn’t be seen as “a one-time effort” but “a daily commitment to defeat Planned Parenthood once and for all.”