Planned Parenthood rally draws supporters, opposition

Rep. Mary Still and Rep. Stephen Webber spoke at the event.
Gregory Thompson recites the rosary with fellow members of 40 Days for Life, an anti-abortion group, in protest of a rally to support Planned Parenthood on Saturday on Providence Road. Supporters rallied as Planned Parenthood funds are threatened to be cut.

Nearly 100 supporters of Planned Parenthood and one giant pink bus gathered in front of the Providence clinic Saturday to rally for the nation-wide healthcare provider’s support.

Planned Parenthood is fighting for its federal funding in Congress and as a result has launched a cross country “Truth Tour.”

Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, spoke at the event, stressing the importance of the preventative care Planned Parenthood provides.

“The truth is, women who are pregnant don’t just need information, they need medically-accurate information,” he said. “The truth is while abstinence works for some, it won’t work for everyone. And the truth is, if women don’t have access to pap smears, they could die.”

Marisa Ward, a nurse practitioner at Planned Parenthood in Columbia, told the crowd about the type of services they provide and the type of people who benefit from their services.

“We see young women who want to be educated so they can plan to be mothers when they’re ready,” she said. “1 in 5 women in America has visited a Planned Parenthood in their lifetime, and 90 percent of our care is preventative.”

Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia, also spoke about the importance of Planned Parenthood to women, especially those of the lower and middle classes.

“The assault on Planned Parenthood is an assault on women,” she said.

Religious adversaries of Planned Parenthood have been protesting outside of the center for the past couple of weeks and plan to be there one day a week until the center is closed.

Sam Backus, a member of a local Catholic church, said his deep disapproval of Planned Parenthood has everything to do with abortion.

“Planned Parenthood is about abortion — that’s our stance,” he said. “If it ceased doing abortions and just did cancer screenings and disease testing, we might even support them.”

Backus said although the Title X funding the House voted to take from Planned Parenthood defunds everything the organization provides except abortion, if the bill passes through the senate it will still be a victory for anti-abortion rights advocates as Planned Parenthood will likely have to shut down as a result.

“Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of abortion,” he said. “And if we defund the other things Planned Parenthood provides, there’s no way it can stay open.”

Harold Maasen stood on the side of the road for hours on Saturday, holding a rosary and a sign condemning abortion.

“It’s God’s will that thou shalt not kill,” he said. “Why should people who don’t believe in abortion have to give their money to the largest abortion provider in the country?”

Lauren Olsen, co-president of MU’s Feminist Student Union, said she was there to support Planned Parenthood’s preventative health care — care that she is familiar with as she herself is a patient there.

“I can’t afford to go anywhere else,” she said. “I have health insurance, but my co-pay is too much and I don’t necessarily want to talk to my parents about my sexual health.”

Olsen said she sees the attempt to defund Planned Parenthood as an attack on women and the middle class and said it is important to rally in its support.

“The purpose today is to show that Missourians and Columbians want to stand for sexual health,” she said. “So many people are positively affected and helped by the services Planned Parenthood provide. This is about supporting your friends and the community.”

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