Protestors say they’ll turn out to about a dozen Planned Parenthood clinics across Michigan on Saturday, citing "recent revelations that Planned Parenthood has been harvesting and selling aborted body parts," as one press release describes it.
The Michigan rallies are part of a national day of protests at 300 Planned Parenthood clinics around the country.
This comes after secretly-recorded, highly-edited videos were released this summer showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing some clinics’ practice of donating fetal tissue for medical research.
The videos were made by a group called the Center for Medical Progress, whose members pretend to be from companies looking to buy fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood.
In the aftermath, Planned Parenthood execs are stressing that their patients always give consent for fetal tissue to be donated – and that the organization doesn’t make a profit from those donations, it only receives payments to cover their costs.
All of that is legal under federal law, but the law also says doctors can't alter the abortion procedure "solely for the purpose of obtaining the tissue," an issue raised by one of the videos, in which a Texas Planned Parenthood executive appears to say that some procedures could be tailored to keep specific fetal tissues intact.
Republicans in both Lansing and Washington, D.C. cite the videos as evidence that Planned Parenthood should no longer receive federal funding.
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood supporters say fetal tissue is vital for medical research into cures for diseases that affect millions of people.
Michigan Planned Parenthoods don’t do fetal tissue donations
But they’d be open to it.
“Presently, we don’t have any arrangements with anybody to offer our patients the opportunity to donate fetal tissue for life-saving research, although we think it’s a great idea,” says Lori Carpentier, CEO and President of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan. “And we’d respond to specific researchers if they approached us. But we just have not had that arrangement.”
Carpentier says most of the clinics targeted for Saturday’s rallies are already scheduled to be closed on Saturday mornings.
But she says at those that are open, they’ve let patients who called about Saturday appointments know there will be protestors outside.
“And we will have people on hand that will help escort patients from their cars to the building, so that they feel some level of protection,” says Carpentier.
Asked about the videos’ impact on Planned Parenthood of Michigan, Carpentier says this is “not our first rodeo” when it comes to protests, and that some clinics typically see protestors several days a week.
But she says this summer in particular has been tough.
“We’ve had people try to call our call centers and make staffers say things that they could use out of context. We’ve had a bomb threat at one of our centers. Again, these things are not brand new to us ... but it certainly has been at a hyper-developed level this summer.”
Carpentier says the debate about funding Planned Parenthood ignores the fact that some 72,000 people are helped each year at Michigan’s 21 Planned Parenthood centers, receiving services like prenatal care, birth control, cancer screenings and health education – as well as abortions.
“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.”
Protest organizers say they’ll be peacefully exercising their right to free speech
The Pro-Life Society’s Monica Migliorino Miller is helping to organize the Saturday protests.
She says they’re vehemently “opposed to any kind of violence,” and that the protests this weekend are about making statements protected by the First Amendment.
As for bomb threats against Planned Parenthood, Miller says:
“The real violence is happening inside their abortion facilities, and [the videos released this summer] have shown they can’t run from that.”
She says the group’s protest tactics, first and foremost, are to “make statements supporting the sanctity of life … and to any women entering [Planned Parenthood,] to extend them our love and support so hopefully they can continue the pregnancy.”
“We should be showing the violence that happens inside Planned Parenthood, and if people want to bring signage that shows [pictures of] the victims of abortion, we have no problem with that.”
Protests are planned at Planned Parenthood sites in the metro Detroit area and West Michigan from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.