A couple of hundred Planned Parenthood supporters gathered in Kent on Saturday morning to counteract calls to defund the health care provider, which has a location on the city’s East Hill.
Pro-life groups organized more than 200 rallies in as many as 45 states on Saturday asking President Donald Trump and Congress to strip all federal funding of Planned Parenthood and reallocate those funds to health centers to help disadvantaged women without destroying human life through abortion, according to rally websites.
The Respect Life Committee from St. Stephen the Martyr Church, of Renton, sponsored the rally in Kent. About 25 pro-life supporters were on hand, far outnumbered by those in support of Planned Parenthood.
Many of Planned Parenthood supporters gathered at Town Square Plaza, at Second Avenue North and West Smith Street, in downtown Kent for a separate rally before making their way up the James/240th Street Hill to the Planned Parenthood office, 10056 SE 240th St.
The counterprotest was organized by Seattle Clinic Defense – a grassroots organization created out of the March for Choice in 2011.
“We felt like this big push to defund Planned Parenthood is going to be absolutely catastrophic for women’s access to abortion and all kinds of reproductive health care,” said Michelle Farber with Seattle Clinic Defense. “The success we have had in clinic defense is that we put the anti-choicers on notice that their harassment outside of clinics is not acceptable. We are there to be be a strong pro-choice presence that supports the clinic staff, patients and the community at large.”
The Kent Planned Parenthood office, which is closed on Saturdays, does not provide in-clinic abortions, but does offer the abortion pill, pre- and post-abortion patient education, post-abortion follow-up exams and referrals for other abortion services as needed, according to Planned Parenthood’s website.
There is a need for clinics like Planned Parenthood, Farber said.
“Planned Parenthood is one of the only large providers for abortion care and reproductive health that especially low-income women and women of color end up using,” she said. “Without federal funding, we in Washington state are very, very vulnerable to losing our clinics. It is incredibly important, not just for our organization, but for women and men seeking reproductive health care everywhere.”
Saturday’s rally gave pro-choice and Planned Parenthood supporters a chance to come together with like-minded people, Farber said.
“The other goal, of course, is to show the anti-choicers that they are not the majority,” she said. “They don’t represent the majority of Americans. Their opinion is not one that we will let go unopposed outside of our clinics.”
Once pro-choice supporters marched the 1.7 miles to the clinic, they lined 240th Street holding signs and chanting. Pro-life advocates also lined a portion of the street holding signs, while some individual prayed.
St. Stephen’s Respect Life Committee gathers one Saturday a month outside the Kent Planned Parenthood clinic to pray, said one of the group’s organizers, Mary S., who asked her last name not be used.
“We pray for all people inside (Planned Parenthood) that the Lord will open their eyes and see the truth that life is sacred,” she said.
Saturday’s event was aimed at “opening the eyes of people to refuse that taxpayer money be used for abortions,” Mary said.
“Once pregnancy has been invited, a choice has been made,” she said.
The Respect Life Committee has not encountered large counterprotests in the past, Mary said, adding that her group’s efforts have had an impact. She and others have been approached by individuals who said they changed their minds about having an abortion after seeing pro-life demonstrations.
The Kent Police Department activated its Civil Disturbance Unit in anticipation of the rallies to help with crowd control and to escort marchers safely up the James/240th hill.