WASHINGTON― The organizers of a Feb. 11 anti-abortion rally have faced an unexpected snag. The planned demonstration at more than 130 Planned Parenthood health centers across the country has attracted many would-be protesters who thought the event’s website said “Defend PP,” instead of “Defund.”
“We got slammed with emails from pro-choice people wanting to come out and support Planned Parenthood,” said Eric Scheidler, spokesperson for the Pro-Life Action League and organizer of the rally. “It took us a while to figure out what was going on. We were getting messages from people saying, ‘Hey, you should really change the website name ― we really want help defend our rights.’”
Scheidler said the rally’s purpose is to show support for the effort in Congress to defund Planned Parenthood while repealing the Affordable Care Act. “When Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) announced his intention to seek this move right now, that really created an urgency for activists to back him up,” Scheidler said.
Despite some pressure from the right, Republicans in Congress know that defunding Planned Parenthood would be politically detrimental to them. A Quinnipiac University poll released last week showed that only 31 percent of voters would support the move, while twice that number ― 62 percent ― support continued funding for the nation’s largest family planning provider.
The groundswell of support for Planned Parenthood appears to be gaining momentum in response to President Donald Trump and his anti-abortion administration. The day after Trump’s inauguration, the Women’s March on Washington, which explicitly supported the family planning provider, turned into one of the largest demonstrations in American history. Following the march, in Iowa, hundreds packed the state capitol to protest a Planned Parenthood defunding bill. In Utah, roughly 6,000 people marched to the state capitol on the first day of the Utah State Legislative session to defend reproductive rights.
Anti-abortion activists organized the nationwide “Defund PP” in part as public rebuttal to the progressive marches, but Scheidler said organizers are fully aware that their rally cannot match the Women’s March in size or publicity.
“I think comparisons to the Women’s March are hard to make,” he said. “That was a singular moment in history, responding to a very contentious election and, frankly, with an awful lot of support from the media. That kind of free media attention, we’re unlikely to get.”
Mary Alice Carter, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood, responded to the “Defund PP” rally in a statement to The Huffington Post.
“At the end of the day, no organization does more to prevent unintended pregnancies and the need for abortion than Planned Parenthood,” she said. “If opponents of abortion were serious about lowering the abortion rate in this country, they’d be working alongside Planned Parenthood to expand people’s access to effective birth control, sex education, and preventive health care ― rather than elbowing their way into the personal medical decisions of families across the country.”