A woman in a minivan is not at all happy with Bethany Campbell’s massive poster, which shows the bloody detached head of a fetus and reads “Choice is Abortion.”
“Little kids do not need to see that picture,” the minivan lady shouts over traffic noise at a busy intersection in Ann Arbor.
“Yes, they do,” says Campbell, a blonde 25-year-old from Saline who says she’s worked as a nurse, and that while she’s been “pro-life my entire life,” this is her first time actually coming out to a protest against abortion.
“For me, this is outside my comfort zone,” Campbell explains after the minivan drives off. “I’m not a person that likes conflict or confrontation. But this is something I’m super passionate about. It’s so easy for us to…close our eyes and not look at the videos of Planned Parenthood, because it’s too hard for us to stomach.”
There’s been more than one shouting match between drivers and the 200 or so protesters lined up outside one Planned Parenthood in Ann Arbor.
“F—k you, you piece of s—t,” one young guy in a University of Michigan hat yells to a man holding the same sign as Campbell.
“You should thank your mom because she chose life!” the protester responds.
But every few minutes, another car honks as driver waves in support of the protesters.
This rally is one of a dozen similar protests planned at Planned Parenthood clinics around the state.
It’s part of a national day of protests sponsored by groups like the Pro-Life Society and co-sponsored by a long list of organizations, including the Family Research Council, Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, and a group called This Race Will Self-Destruct – which, according to its website, seeks to “educate…about the Abortion and HIV/AIDS crises that are devastating the African American Community.”
Building momentum after controversial Planned Parenthood videos
The protests are meant to capitalize on the controversy surrounding secretly-filmed, highly-edited videos released this summer, which show Planned Parenthood executives discussing graphic details about how some clinics donate fetal tissue to medical research – how they know which abortions will yield the best chance of delivering intact fetal tissue, etc.
The videos were created by a group called the Center for Medical Progress, whose members pretended to be from companies interested in acquiring fetal tissue.
For Bethany Campbell, the young woman who says she’s worked as a nurse out of state before moving back to Saline, the videos have been deeply disturbing – especially one released just this past week, which purports to be an interview with a young woman who previously worked as technician at Stem Express, LLC.
Stem Express LLC reportedly used to have a contract with Planned Parenthood to process fetal tissue before sending it to medical researchers. But recent reports say the company has severed ties with Planned Parenthood after the videos were released.
In the most recent video, the woman who says she worked as a technician at Stem Express LLC talks about receiving a fully intact fetus whose heart started beating.
For Campbell, that was heartbreaking.
“Just with the videos coming out, it’s so appalling … to see what they’re doing to live babies. It really made me want to stand up to defund Planned Parenthood, because I don’t want my tax dollars going to this. I just really feel like I need to stand up, because who else is?”
Actually, most of the other protesters who spoke with Michigan Radio at this Ann Arbor rally said this is hardly the first time they’ve come out to protest Planned Parenthood.
“We’ve come and prayed in front of the clinic before,” says Kate Schoenle of Plymouth, who brought her kids along on Saturday. She says they range in age from five to 18.
“We don’t view it as political,” she says. “We see it as an extension of our faith, and being disciples of Christ. So it’s important to do that in every aspect of our life, keeping that integrity in every part of our life no matter what the issue is.”
Planned Parenthood’s response
As some Republicans in both Lansing and Washington D.C. continue to call for pulling tax payer dollars from Planned Parenthood, many in the organization say they’re working hard to set the record straight.
Planned Parenthood says their fetal tissue donation practices are completely lawful, because they follow guidelines requiring the consent of the mother – and that they don’t make a profit from the donations; they just get reimbursed for some of their costs.
Lori Carpentier is the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan.
She says none of their clinics in Michigan currently donate fetal tissue to researchers, although she says they’d be open to it.
Meanwhile, she says they’re providing critical services – including cancer screenings, long term birth control, and prenatal care – to 72,000 Michigan women each year.
“For the vast majority of our patients, this is the [only] healthcare they get a year,” says Carpentier. “Our statistics show that it’s nearly 80% of our patients who only get healthcare from us.”