Demonstrators lined San Mateo Boulevard for several blocks around a Planned Parenthood clinic in Albuquerque on Saturday morning to speak out against abortions and federal funding for the health care provider, whose services include abortions.
It was one of was one of many rallies at Planned Parenthood clinics throughout the country on Saturday. Protesters held signs with depictions of aborted fetuses, messages about Planned Parenthood selling fetus parts and signs that blasted New Mexico political leaders for allowing abortions to take place in the state. Some people chanted prayers and read Bible passages at passing traffic.
About 500 people, which also included a handful of pro-choice demonstrators, were on site Saturday morning, according to people there.
Planned Parenthood came under fire recently when anti-abortion activists posted videos online that seemed to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing selling fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood officials have said those videos were edited and taken out of context.
Planned Parenthood New Mexico spokeswoman Julianna Koob said the videos are referring to patients who donate fetal tissue after an abortion so it can be studied.
“We want to lift (those patients) up and recognize their heroic commitment,” Koob said.
Many of the people at the rally said that whether a policymaker is anti-abortion or favors abortion rights is the main factor they consider when selecting politicians for public office.
“I don’t care if (the next president) smokes pot or is gay, don’t take my money and kill kids,” said Jerry Graeber of Albuquerque.
Blenda Drummond of Los Lunas said it was the first anti-abortion demonstration she has attended. She said she blogs about abortion issues and also said she was hopeful that Saturday was the start of an uprising of protests aimed at Planned Parenthood and abortion providers.
“More Planned Parenthood clinics that close is a good measurement” of the anti-abortion movement’s success, said Jan Gitzendanner of Albuquerque. “Life has to come first … A woman in the womb has as much rights as a woman outside the woman.”
Kristen Himm of Albuquerque attended the protest with her young daughter as one of a few counterprotesters. She said demonstrations against clinics like Planned Parenthood come in waves and she didn’t think there has been a shift in public opinion.
“We’re a much smaller group today, but we still want to have our voice heard,” she said. “It comes down to fundamental human rights. My right to choose. And the same is true for my daughter.”
There was some back-and-forth debate between the people on both sides of the issue at the protest, but it appeared everything remained peaceful.
Koob said Planned Parenthood is an important organization for providing women with health care and the “overwhelming majority” of the agency’s work is providing contraception and screening for cancer and sexually transmitted diseases. In New Mexico, the agency has clinics in Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Santa Fe and Farmington.
“Our patients need health care. New Mexicans need health care,” Koob said. “And we’re going to continue to provide that.”