Hundreds of pro-choice advocates turned out at the Margaret Sanger Planned Parenthood clinic in the East Village Saturday morning to protest an anti-abortion rally being held at the clinic.
Several dozen anti-abortion activists had gathered in a silent protest outside the clinic as part of a series of nationwide actions demanding that Congress strip federal funding from the women's and reproductive health organization. A few blocks away in Washington Square Park, thousands gathered in a "Stand With Planned Parenthood" rally, one of 150 such events across the country yesterday.
Organized by NYC for Abortion Rights, the pro-choice protesters chanted "My body, my choice," and "Pro-life—that's a lie, you don't care if women die," holding signs that read: "If you can't trust me with a choice, how can you trust me with a child?" and "Planned Parenthood saved my life."
"I'm a working class woman and these services are exactly what women in my community need," Delicia Jones, a 26-year-old health care coordinator from the Bronx who helped organize the counter-protest, told Gothamist.
Meanwhile, the anti-abortion group, organized by #ProtestPP, held their own signs, with slogans like, "Life begins at conception and ends at Planned Parenthood," and "Unborn Lives Matter." Several told Gothamist that they want the federal government to reallocate Planned Parenthood funding to federal health centers that do not provide abortion services.
"If you're for Planned Parenthood, you fund it," Valerie, a 54-year-old librarian from Queens who did not want to provide her last name, told Gothamist. "I don't think someone should be murdered in such a gruesome, painful way just because of a woman's convenience."
Planned Parenthood, which receives about $500 million in federal funding annually—75 percent of which comes from Medicaid, says that 3 percent of the services it provided in 2014 were related to abortion. The vast majority of its services are related to contraception and STD/STI testing and treatment.
Patrick Alles, a 29-year-old architect who lives in midtown, told Gothamist he sees his opposition to a woman's right to choose as related to a broader human rights struggle. "I'm part of the millennial generation and we've championed rights for everyone—all kinds of groups that we recognize as being unfairly treated or not having their rights recognized," he said. "I feel strongly that that same energy and passion for rights should be extended to the unborn."
While a number of the pro-choice protesters said they had been advocating for abortion rights for years or, in some cases, decades, others said were out in response to President Trump's election.
"In the past two weeks, I've doubled the number of protests I've ever been to in my life," Cynthia Nicklin, a 39-year-old librarian, told Gothamist.
While Planned Parenthood supported the rally in Washington Square Park, it did not offer an endorsement for the clinic protest. This is in accordance with a longstanding organizational view that protests of any kind may frighten or confuse patients visiting a clinic.
"It tends to get loud and disruptive and patients don't always want that," Christina Chang, the vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of New York City, told Gothamist. "They're coming to get medical services, they're not making a political statement."
Chang said organizers of the clinic protest had communicated with Planned Parenthood prior to the event, but that while the organization appreciated their support, the protesters "just disagreed with our approach and our request."
Jones, who has been a patient at the clinic herself, told Gothamist that many activists believe Planned Parenthood has not been aggressive enough in its pro-choice advocacy.
"For years Planned Parenthood has tried to say that we need to have a policy of no confrontation, but I think that's how we got here today," Jones told Gothamist. "Anti-choicers are still willing to do these kinds of actions because there's not enough women in the streets combatting them." She added that, as a patient, she would want the solidarity of a counter-protest.
"I wouldn't want to have to walk past this and think that I was alone," Jones said.
Kate Castle, a 25-year-old reproductive health research assistant who also attended the pro-choice protest, argued that Planned Parenthood should not be equated with the entire pro-choice movement.
"I think the Planned Parenthood strategy of depoliticization and saying that this is just health care makes a lot of sense—they are a healthcare provider," Castle told Gothamist. "But I don't think they should be able to dictate the political strategy that we take as a reproductive justice movement." She said she believed the protest was "in no way in opposition" to the organization.
The rally in Washington Square Park featured prominent reproductive rights advocates, including Vagina Monologues author Eve Ensler and founder of Lady Parts Justice League Lizz Winstead, as well as local elected officials including Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James.
Ensler and others spoke about Planned Parenthood's impact on their own lives.
"They gave me contraception. They gave me advice. They gave me an abortion," Ensler told the crowd. They are the bedrock of health in this country for women and they are the symbol of our liberation."