SAN JOSE, Calif. — A mostly young crowd of easily over a thousand activists came out to the Rose Garden neighborhood of this city Saturday afternoon to defend Planned Parenthood. The women’s reproductive health organization has been the subject of ongoing GOP attack for years. With the White House and Congress dominated by Republicans, and perhaps soon the courts, PP is now in danger of losing federal funding.
Demonstrations took place Saturday in numerous cities around the country. The one here took place a few blocks away from PP offices. Outside, a few counter-demonstrators with banners and handouts prayed for the unborn and appealed out of conscience for the sanctity of life. But they were unable to respond to questions about the death penalty, the widespread availability of guns in our culture, the wars our young people are asked to fight, denial of health care to millions of Americans, or any exceptions, such as rape or incest, in their opposition to abortion.
Over 2.5 million patients came to PP in the U.S. last year, and millions more received consultations in the 189 countries around to the world with PP affiliate organizations. PP has received federal funding since 1970, when President Richard M. Nixon signed the law authorizing it. At the time, Nixon spoke of the need to provide women’s healthcare counseling and treatment irrespective of patients’ economic status.
What the right wing often obscures and misrepresents is how little of PP’s work actually goes toward abortions — only 3 percent. PP health care services include lifesaving cancer screenings, well-woman exams, contraceptive services, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, including HIV.
PP ensures that women have access to all of their options. Over 90 percent of the services offered are preventive, helping women, families and communities stay healthy. PP also sees male clients for STI testing and education about reproductive choices. A healthier population saves society untold millions of dollars’ worth of costs in later, and less successful treatment for undiagnosed conditions.
Speakers in San José included U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who reaffirmed the support Democrats continue to give to Planned Parenthood. California Assemblymember Evan Low, who identified himself as Asian-American, a millennial, and a member of the LGBT community who represents San José, also spoke. “We’re in a progressive area,” he said, “but we must go to the red areas in California. If all of you showed up at your elected officials’ office, they will listen.”
San José Mayor Sam Liccardo greeted the audience on behalf of the city, saying, “A woman’s body should be free of governmental interference, and by the way, I include Trump’s groping.” Women in the crowd, wearing a lot of pink clothes and the now famous “pussyhats,” roared approval.
In a statement from the interim vice president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which runs over 650 health centers across the country, Mary Alice Carter said, “The American people support Planned Parenthood and do not want their health care stripped away. That’s why you saw thousands show up in support of Planned Parenthood around the country…. Nineteen polls have shown overwhelmingly that Americans support Planned Parenthood. And even 50 percent of Trump’s own supporters do not want to see Planned Parenthood ‘defunded’…. Patients don’t go to Planned Parenthood health centers to make a political statement — they go to receive quality care from a provider they know and trust.”
Numerous other speakers at the rally represented different communities in the San José area, as well as other women’s rights organizations, such as NARAL. Many women representing all racial and ethnic groups, some of them of high school age, spoke of their commitment to protect PP’s work. A law professor claimed that denying funding to PP was nothing short of “an assault on poor women and women of color.”
One women spoke of the courageous decision her own mother had made at the age of 17 back in 1969 to have an abortion, when she felt profoundly unprepared to parent a child. “That choice is owed to every single woman on this planet.”
A man spoke movingly of the decision his oldest child had made to transition from male to female, and how PP supported her when other health providers either denied care or gave wrong and misleading advice.
Speakers from the local PP organization and its support groups mentioned that the entire rally had been organized by volunteers.
One organizer of the demonstration pointed out at the end that the local Presbyterian church had called unsolicited to offer their grounds and facilities to help out with the event, declaring their willingness to repair the damage caused by all too many other faith groups around women’s rights concerns. Indeed, there were people wearing clerical collars in the crowd. One held a placard stating that Jesus supported women’s health, and quoted a number of Biblical citations.
A sign held high in the crowd struck an important, essential note that opponents really ought to think about: “Thanks to Planned Parenthood I’ve never needed an abortion.”
For further information on Planned Parenthood, click here.