Dueling rallies draw thousands at St. Paul Planned Parenthood

A dozen feet of empty street sandwiched between parallel crowd barriers kept thousands of pro-Planned Parenthood demonstrators separated from hundreds of abortion foes during competing rallies Saturday morning in St. Paul.The protests pitted “I Stand...

Dueling rallies draw thousands at St. Paul Planned Parenthood

A dozen feet of empty street sandwiched between parallel crowd barriers kept thousands of pro-Planned Parenthood demonstrators separated from hundreds of abortion foes during competing rallies Saturday morning in St. Paul.

The protests pitted “I Stand With Planned Parenthood” vs. the “National Defund PP Rally” at Planned Parenthood’s regional St. Paul headquarters at 671 Vandalia St.

Police estimated that 6,000 people were present in total. The vast majority were on the pro-Planned Parenthood side, which from aerial shots appeared as a sea of pink because so many people carried signs of that color. The anti-Planned Parenthood group ranged in size from 250 to 500 people.

While some of the chants were pointed — some Planned Parenthood supporters chanted “Tax the church!” and “Defund Pence!,” the protests were peaceful. The abortion opponents dispersed about 10 a.m., the larger group about an hour later.

The dueling protests were one of several planned around the Twin Cities Saturday on issues ranging from abortion to immigration to race relations. Nationwide, protests have been larger and more frequent since President Donald Trump’s inauguration, as both his opponents and supporters find their motivations and momentum growing.

Abortion foes have been buoyed by the possibility that Congress could withhold millions of dollars from Planned Parenthood, the state’s largest abortion provider, and that a reconfigured U.S. Supreme Court might reconsider Roe vs. Wade. David Joles, Star Tribune Protesters on both sides of Planned Parenthood — those who support it, left, and those who want to defund it — gather Saturday in St. Paul.

Mary Morse Marti and her husband, Jim, of St. Paul, were supporting Planned Parenthood at the rally.

“I see our country making a very sharp right turn, and I worry that our rights ... are under threat,” Morse Marti, 56, said.

Jim Marti says he believes Planned Parenthood has been at the forefront of providing safe abortion services.

“Abortion has to be safe and legal. If it is illegal, it could be deadly,” he said.

In the other corralled section, Mary Oothoudt stood with her friend Kathy Lowery, holding “Moms for Life” signs.

“We are here to stand up for the life of the unborn child,” Oothoudt said.

The anti-abortion protest is one of more than 200 planned nationwide by the #ProtestPP Coalition, which is calling for Planned Parenthood to be stripped of all federal funding, and for all such funding to be redirected to health centers that do not perform abortions.

#ProtestPP is a coalition of state and national pro-life groups, headed by three national pro-life activist organizations: Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, Created Equal, and the Pro-Life Action League. Saturday’s event is also sponsored by 40 Days for Life.

In response to the abortion foes’ announcement of its protests, the organization’s supporters called for a day of action to show support for its services and patients.

Planned Parenthood operates 18 clinics in Minnesota, 21 in Wisconsin, 12 in Iowa and one in South Dakota. Nationwide, federal Medicaid reimbursement made up nearly half the organization’s total revenue in 2014, according to the Associated Press. Should that funding be cut, it could mean the loss of more than $13 million for its Minnesota clinics.

There is a long-standing ban on the use of federal funds for abortion services, but Planned Parenthood clinics provide a host of other services that that money goes to: health screenings, counseling, vaccinations, vasectomies, Pap smears and birth control refills.

Of the 9,861 abortions recorded by the Minnesota Health Department in 2015, more than half — 5,048 — were performed at a Planned Parenthood clinic. But only one of the 18 Minnesota clinics provides abortion services.

The clinics serve about 24,000 Medicaid patients a year, according to Planned Parenthood. Low-income patients make up 65 percent of the patients.

Supporters worry that eliminating Medicaid reimbursement for Planned Parenthood will keep low-income patients from receiving that care.

But for opponents, the focus is on those 5,048 abortions. If defunding Planned Parenthood cripples the provider, so much the better, they say.

A day of protests Miguel Otárola, Star Tribune Protesters who support Planned Parenthood gather at a Planned Parenthood facility Saturday morning in St. Paul.

The St. Paul event is one of at least three rally/protests planned for Saturday.

Outside Minneapolis City Hall about noon, a “Caravan of Love” march is scheduled to celebrate refugees and immigrants as President Donald Trump seeks to limit people from entering the United States from several nations with majority Muslim populations.

Organizers say in a Facebook announcement that the marchers will go from City Hall to the West Bank of the University of Minnesota, where they will “write our love notes and build a bridge of love” on the Washington Avenue pedestrian bridge.

To the north in Falcon Heights, the treatment of minorities by law enforcement is the underlying issue for a 2 p.m. memorial celebration for Philando Castile, a black man fatally shot by police last summer.

The location of the event is Larpenteur Avenue and Fry Street, just west of Snelling Avenue. That is where Castile was pulled over and fatally shot by police officer Jeronimo Yanez, who is charged with manslaughter and other counts.

 

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