Planned Parenthood protest: Supporters vs. haters at St. Anthony Park clinic

Good Friday brought busloads of grim-faced, rosary-clutching anti-abortion rights protesters to the doorsteps of the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Anthony Park. They marched mournfully under a light snow drift, holding crucifixes toward the hundreds of Planned Parenthood supporters gathered just across a narrow, waist-high police barricade separating the parallel protests.

On the pro-abortion rights side (the side with the food trucks), activists decked with pink Planned Parenthood buttons and pussy hats held a fundraiser and block party. From the sidewalk, hecklers waved signs depicting graphic images of late-term abortions while screaming about homosexuality and sin.

After a volatile year of repeated threats by President Donald Trump to “defund” Planned Parenthood, followed by widespread public backlash in response, CEO Sarah Stoesz of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota says the risk of losing abortion access is greater than ever, even while the number of individual Planned Parenthood donors has doubled since the presidential election.

In Minnesota, Republicans hold control of both chambers of the legislature, and a number of anti-abortions bills have been introduced this year.

One would ban abortions outright (HF 2792). Another would require physicians to ask women if they want to see their ultrasound prior to undergoing an abortion (HF 3194). HF 2813 would mandate the retention of abortion records for 30 years (the normal retention period for all other medical procedures is seven years). HF 2998 would direct the Department of Transportation to sell special “Choose Life” license plates, with the proceeds going to support “crisis pregnancy centers” – unlicensed, unregulated centers staffed by non-healthcare professionals who try to talk women out of getting abortions, often by exaggerating the risks.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood has a bill (HF 3453) that would protect free birth control for Minnesota women should Trump remove that benefit from the Affordable Care Act. As it is merely a precaution, the bill asks for no funding. Not a single Republican was willing to sign on, Stoesz says.

“I would say is since the election, I’ve never worked so hard, ever, in my whole life and felt so much stress and concern about the future. At the same time, I have never felt so buoyed by the movement either,” Stoesz says.

“This interesting political reaction is in part because so many women have been through the clinic and have had their lives transformed because of it … Women and men understand that by attacking PP, a core part of our values as Americans is being attacked, and they don’t want that. This is a place to kind of give voice to the anti-Trump resistance. It’s been really great.”

All photos by Susan Du