The Commercial Appeal

Thousands rally across the nation for and against abortion rights

- GENE JOHNSON

SEATTLE - Anti-abortion activists emboldened by the new administra­tion of President Donald Trump staged rallies around the country Saturday calling for the federal government to cut off payments to Planned Parenthood, but in some cities counter-protests dwarfed the demonstrat­ions.

Thousands of Planned Parenthood supporters, many wearing the pointyeare­d pink hats popularize­d by last month’s women’s marches, turned out for a rally in St. Paul, Minnesota, separated by barricades from an anti-abortion crowd of a couple hundred people. In Detroit, about 300 people turned up outside a Planned Parenthood office, most of them supporting the organizati­on. In St. Louis, about 150 abortion opponents slightly outnumbere­d a group carrying pink signs that read, “I stand with Planned Parenthood.”

“They do a lot of work to help women with reproducti­ve health — not just abortions, obviously — but they help with birth control and cancer screenings and counseling and a whole variety of services, and it seems they’re under attack right now, and that concerns me greatly,” said Kathy Brown, 58, a supporter of the organizati­on who attended the St. Paul rally. Andy LaBine, 44, of Ramsey, Minnesota, rallied with abortion opponents in St. Paul. LaBine, who was there with his family, said he believes Planned Parenthood is hiding “under a veil of health care.”

In one of his first acts as president, Trump last month banned U.S. funding to internatio­nal groups that perform abortions or even provide informatio­n about abortions. Vice President Mike Pence strongly opposes abortion, citing his Catholic beliefs, and the newly confirmed health secretary, Tom Price, has supported cutting off taxpayer money to Planned Parenthood.

Federal dollars don’t pay for abortions, but the organizati­on is reimbursed by Medicaid for other services, including birth control and cancer screening.

Anti-abortion conservati­ves have long tried to cut Planned Parenthood funds, arguing that the reimbursem­ents help subsidize abortions. Planned Parenthood says it performed 324,000 abortions in 2014, the most recent year tallied, but the vast majority of women seek out contracept­ion, testing and treatment of sexually transmitte­d diseases, or other services including cancer screenings.

The nonpartisa­n Congressio­nal Budget Office says defunding plans would cut roughly $400 million in Medicaid money from the group in the year after enactment and would result in roughly 400,000 women losing access to care. Republican­s would redirect the funding to community health centers, but Planned Parenthood supporters say women denied Medicaid services from Planned Parenthood may not be able to find replacemen­t care.

 ?? JIM SALTER/AP ?? A Planned Parenthood supporter and opponent try to block each other’s signs during a protest and counter-protest Saturday in St. Louis.
JIM SALTER/AP A Planned Parenthood supporter and opponent try to block each other’s signs during a protest and counter-protest Saturday in St. Louis.

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