This wasn’t your father’s pro-life rally.
It was more like your mother’s. Or, more accurately, your sister’s.
Young women, some pushing toddlers in strollers, dominated Tuesday morning’s protest outside the local Planned Parenthood office on Main Street.
The “Women Betrayed” campaign rolled into Buffalo, drawing about 75 protesters to the site, in an attempt to “expose” Planned Parenthood.
The rally, one of about 70 similar protests across the nation, followed the recent release of videos showing two top Planned Parenthood physicians casually discussing the sale of fetal tissue for medical research.
“We are here today to expose Planned Parenthood, a national organization that promotes care and compassion,” said the local event’s organizer, Pearl Guerin, a University at Buffalo student. “We’re here to show that they have betrayed us, women and families, and that they’re not about care and compassion.”
The late-morning rally was reminiscent of some of the large pro-life demonstrations that were a common sight more than a decade ago at another Main Street site, an abortion clinic just a few blocks away.
But this was different. There were far fewer men, fewer older people and fewer signs proclaiming “murder” or showing graphic depictions of fetuses.
Instead, the theme was “Women Betrayed,” and the protest’s focus was Planned Parenthood, more than the larger topic of abortion.
These protesters contend that the sales of “body parts,” or fetal tissue, provide additional profits for Planned Parenthood.
“They’re about money, they’re about profit, and they’re not about care and compassion,” said Guerin, president of UB’s Students for Life. “They do not deserve our taxpayer money.”
Karen J. Nelson, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York, could not be reached to comment Tuesday, but she did issue a statement.
“These protests are designed to shame the patients who seek basic health care services from Planned Parenthood and to intimidate the health care professionals who work here,” Nelson stated. “Women should be able to get health care without fear of violence, harassment, or intimidation.”
The latest confrontation in the nation’s long-simmering battle over abortion rights surfaced with the release of two undercover videos showing a pair of top Planned Parenthood doctors discussing the sale of fetal tissue with people posing as company representatives interested in purchasing such tissue.
While some critics of Planned Parenthood have contended that such tissue sales are illegal, even some of the protesters acknowledged that they’re legal.
“A lot of things are legal today, just as abortion is,” Guerin said. “It’s not about illegality. It’s about the morality of it.”
Nationally, Planned Parenthood officials have countered that the tissue sales are entirely legal and that the fetal tissue is sold for nominal amounts, from $30 to $100 for each specimen, to cover costs, not to make any profit.
These officials also say such tissue research plays a key role in studying fetal development, creating vaccines against certain diseases and providing hope for many people with serious medical conditions.
At Tuesday’s rally, demonstrators focused largely on the moral values, along with the criticism that Planned Parenthood sells fetal tissue for profit, while also accepting millions of dollars in state and federal funds.
“I’m here because I really believe that enough is enough,” said Carol Overhoff, of Eden. “It grieves me that our tax money goes to this.”
And Dave Anderson, 66, of Grand Island, holding an oversized cartoon referring to the sale of livers, hearts and lungs, objected to what he described as the casual attitude of the Planned Parenthood physicians while discussing the fetal tissue during lunch.
“It’s the fact that they’re cavalier about this,” he said. “In one sense, they’re saying it’s a blob of tissue, and then they’re talking about it among themselves that it’s body parts.”
However, Nelson, of Planned Parenthood, noted that more than 30,000 people each year rely on her organization in Western and Central New York for quality, affordable reproductive health care, and more than 90 percent of the facility’s services are related to prevention.
“We are here for our patients, no matter what,” she stated.
“For the women, men, and young people we serve, the care we provide isn’t about politics – it’s about their well-being, and we remain focused on ensuring our patients are able to access the health care we provide in a safe and caring environment.”