A couple of hundred people took to opposing street corners in Kennewick on Saturday to express their viewpoints on Planned Parenthood and abortion.
Cars honked up and down Columbia Center Boulevard as they passed the Defund Planned Parenthood rally and the counter-protest, Stand with Planned Parenthood.
“Who’s going to stick up for (the unborn babies)?” asked Pastor Brian Kinnaman, standing on the southeast corner with Canal Drive. “I think our job is to help protect life, not to take it. God gives and God takes away, and that’s just my firm belief.”
Kinnaman, of Bible Missionary Church in Kennewick, brought his family out to show support for the nationwide effort coordinated by the #ProtestPP Coalition. The coalition planned 224 rallies in 45 states, calling for Congress and President Donald Trump to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding.
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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.
With his young daughter on his shoulders, on the sidewalk next to Bank of the West, Kinnaman held up two signs for passing cars saying Planned Parenthood lies and sells baby parts.
“I don’t feel animosity towards those who do it (have an abortion),” Kinnaman said. “But at the same time, I know that there are those who are convinced into having an abortion, and then they live with the guilt of it for the rest of their lives. They can’t undo it … and it nearly kills them as well.”
Across the street, next to the Columbia Center mall, people standing in support of Planned Parenthood argued that the federal funding is used to provide sexual and reproductive health care services to under-privileged women and teen girls — not for abortions.
“You can’t say you’re pro-life if you’re not willing to help the child once it’s born (with health care, food and support). Then you’re just pro-birth, you’re not pro-life,” said Janie, a West Richland woman who asked to use only her first name. “This is about controlling women. It is about controlling rights.”
Winnie Zeamer, organizer of Kennewick’s pro-life event, said the push is to have the federal money going to Planned Parenthood to be redirected to federally qualified health centers that do not perform abortions.
“Planned Parenthood claims that American women rely on them for health care, but in fact four out of five women will never set foot in a Planned Parenthood facility …,” Zeamer said in a news release. “The controversial organization does not deserve our tax dollars.”
“The effort to defund Planned Parenthood has nothing to do with taking health care away from women,” she added. “It’s about taking tax dollars away from the nation’s largest abortion chain.”
Zeamer also is leading the upcoming 40 Days for Life Tri-Cities prayer campaign to end abortion. It is March 1 to April 9, with people scheduled to hold vigils on the public right-of-way outside the Kennewick Planned Parenthood, 7426 W. Bonnie Ave.
Saturday’s pro-choice, pro-Planned Parenthood community rally was organized by the Love Not Hate Tri-Cities group.
Organizer Amy Boaro of Kennewick said if the goal of activists is to reduce the number of abortions or to eliminate them entirely, then they should be looking at the root cause.
The scientific consensus is that abortions are best prevented by sex education and by access to birth control, she said.
“They’re the last resort. So why are we waiting to protest the last resort? Why aren’t people getting to the root cause?” Boaro said.
The group thought it was a good first step in having at least 50 “passionate people” stand for Planned Parenthood.
“Now I hope that both sides reach out to each other to have respectful conversations and respectful dialogue,” Boaro said. “Because we can stand on the sides of corners as much as we want, we’re not going to help people in an active way just by doing this.”
A news release from Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho said the organization cares for more than 28,000 people in Central and Eastern Washington each year.
“We are here for our patients, no matter what,” said Karl Eastlund, the region’s chief executive officer. “For the women, men and young people we serve, the care we provide isn’t about politics — it’s about their well-being, and we remain focused on ensuring our patients are able to access the health care we provide in a safe and caring environment.”
Eastlund said the anti-abortion protests are designed to shame the patients and intimidate the health care professionals who work for Planned Parenthood. The organization commends the local advocates who countered with their own rallies Saturday, he added.
“There is tremendous energy here to stand up for health care access and the right to make one’s own decisions,” Eastlund said.
Kate Robins of Pasco said she was motivated to hold a “My body. My choice. PP” sign Saturday because she doesn’t want women feeling intimidated when they stop by a clinic.
Tim Strauch of Pasco, whose family members have used Planned Parenthood, described it as one of the best organizations in the United States. He said his already annual donation significantly increased this year because of the political climate.
“It’s a small investment with a huge return,” Strauch said.
Bethany Hickey, a Planned Parenthood health educator, attended Saturday’s counter-protest. She talked to people about volunteer and donation opportunities, and how former and current clients can get involved sharing their stories.
“I think it’s really encouraging to see that there’s this much support for us at the community level,” Hickey said.
She explained that abortions make up less than 3 percent of services. Most center around other women’s health issues like pap smears, cervical cancer screenings, pregnancy testing, birth control and educating of teenagers and youth in an attempt to keep down the rates of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies.
However, one Kennewick man argued that the organization is trying to desensitize people as to when life starts.
“We’re defending the unborn’s right to a life, because it is a life in the womb. We’re here to expose the evils of Planned Parenthood,” said Clint, who didn’t give his last name because of fear of retribution.
“Since Roe v. Wade, a whole generation of people has been completely snuffed out of the mother’s womb. There could have been a doctor in there who had a cure for cancer, another scientist, lawmakers, and other people who could have contributed to society,” Clint said, holding a red stop sign saying “Stop Abortion Now.”
Clint said the group received “a couple birds,” or middle fingers, but for the most part passing motorists waved and honked.
They’ve had 300 participants in the past, he said, and probably didn’t get that big of a turnout this time “because everyone knows everyone is conservative” in the Tri-Cities.