Supporters and protesters gather outside Planned Parenthood
Central Entrance was filled with the sounds of chants, honking and cheers Saturday morning, Feb. 11, as protesters, both in support and opposition to Planned Parenthood, gathered with signs outside the Duluth location at 1001 E. Central Entrance.
Planned Parenthood provides birth control and other women's health services in addition to abortion at 650 health centers, according to its website.
About 15 pro-life protesters mingled with the estimated 120 Planned Parenthood supporters.
The event was one of more than 200 demonstrations across the country organized by pro-life groups. These groups were calling for "an immediate end to the organization's federal funding," according to the Pro-Life Ministries of Duluth Facebook page.
"We are really wanting to make a stand for Planned Parenthood to be defunded," said Sarah Winandy, pro-life supporter and assistant to the director of Pro-Life Ministries of Duluth. "I believe Planned Parenthood gives the impression to people that the mother and their health is more important than the baby and the baby's health ... and teaches immorality."
In response to the pro-life protests, pro-choice groups organized concurrent counter protests which called for "a day of action to show solidarity with Planned Parenthood patients and the important services Planned Parenthood provides," according to the Planned Parenthood Day of Action Facebook page.
"I think that Planned Parenthood is a great option for women in our community," said Planned Parenthood supporter Jennifer Webb. "It's there for a lot of women and men who can't access birth control and other health care and reproductive needs through other means."
About 150 counter-protests were planned nationwide, including one St. Paul, where counter protesters numbered about 5,000 to 5,500 while defund protesters numbered about 500.
At the St. Paul event, the two groups were reportedly separated by barricades and 20 feet of pavement. In Duluth, the opposing individuals stood side by side on both sides of Central Entrance.
"It feels like it's been very intense on both sides. Both sides are very strongly opinionated," said Rebecca Janisch, a pro-life supporter.
"It's been very pleasant. It's always nice to stand with our community. There have been some peaceful discussions," said Shevaun Stocker, a Planned Parenthood supporter.
The groups dispersed by about 11:30 a.m.