Protesters face off at Planned Parenthood rally

Demonstrators filled the sidewalk on both sides of Providence Road.

An anti-Planned Parenthood rally outside the Columbia clinic drew hundreds of protesters and counter-protesters Saturday morning.

The event, which was planned by anti-abortion groups 40 Days for Life and Team Play, was held in solidarity with over 225 similar protests nationwide. According to the #ProtestPP website, the purpose of these rallies is “to call on Congress and President Trump to strip Planned Parenthood of all federal funding and reallocate those funds to health centers that help disadvantaged women without destroying human life through abortion.”

Kathy Forck, 40 Days for Life’s regional coordinator, led the demonstration, introducing pro-life speakers from across mid-Missouri and starting chants such as “You can now fund yourself!” and “What do we want? Defund! When do we want it? Now!”

“I would not even take my dog into that place,” Forck said. “Planned Parenthood has to be cleaned up, and the first thing would be taking the money from them.”

After an opening prayer, St. James resident Nancy Hall shared her story of having an abortion and later experiencing “a rollercoaster of emotions.” Hall is the regional coordinator of “Silent No More,” an organization that says it helps women who regret their abortions.

“The choice I made to take the life of my baby girl that day opened a door of guilt, shame and regret,” Hall said. “My hope today is that other women can realize that there is forgiveness, and there is healing for the choices they’ve made. As I continue my journey, I stand before you as a woman who, by the grace of God, is able to speak out against the lies of Satan.”

Kristen Wood, an MU junior and president of Mizzou Students for Life, also spoke at the rally. She mentioned certain anti-abortion initiatives her group is enacting, including a stand in the Student Center this past Wednesday which claimed that Planned Parenthood was unnecessary.

“[Federally qualified health centers] require less taxpayer money, and therefore they can do so much more with our money than the billions of dollars that are donated to Planned Parenthood,” Wood said.

This statement caused multiple counter-protesters to shout “Stop the lying!” from across the street, to which Wood replied by chanting “We are the pro-life generation!”

While Forck and her organization planned the event, the crowd of counter-protesters was almost double their size. MU students, members of the LGBT community, and others spanned the entire length of the clinic and chanted “When healthcare is under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back,” and “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries.”

Darla Horman, treasurer of the Columbia chapter of the National Organization for Women, attended the counter-protest along with many other NOW members.

“I am here to support Planned Parenthood and to support a woman’s right to safe, legal abortion and contraception,” Horman said. “I think there’s a general sentiment among us: we are simply anti-Trump. His policies are contrary to our vision of an America that is democratic, fair, and just.”

Horman said she supports the protesters’ right to disagree but emphasized that Planned Parenthood works within legal boundaries.

In a Wednesday interview, Forck said she was optimistic about President Trump’s recent election and his policies toward abortion.

“Elections have consequences, and our new president loves the babies,” Forck said. “He has fulfilled several of his campaign promises already. He terminated the Mexico City policy and said he would appoint a supreme court justice who is pro-life, and he has. He talked the talk and now he’s walked the walk, so we’re very happy with the election.”

Forck stated that these views were her own and not those of 40 Days for Life, saying her organization is not political in nature.

Edited by Madi McVan | mmcvan@themaneater.com

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