Tri-City groups protest abortion funding

About 40 Planned Parenthood foes mobilized at two Tri-City locations Monday to protest taxpayer funding for abortions.

The nonprofit organization received $363 million nationwide from the federal government in its last fiscal year, and abortion foes say that's money that could be better spent on health care for pregnant women.

"If the government would take that $363 million and put it into obstetrics ... would stop promoting this evil -- this is an evil cycle of death," said Gina Jones of Pasco, who was among the protesters outside the Court Street clinic.

But Planned Parenthood supporters will spread their own message across the state today about how they believe women will be harmed by lack of access to the reproductive health care offered through the nonprofit's clinics.

Vigils will take place at noon in Bellingham, Spokane, Yakima, Everett, Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia and Vancouver, according to a news release.

"We're here for our patients every day providing them with affordable and accessible health care," said Elaine Rose, CEO of Planned Parenthood Votes! Washington. "There is nothing more important to us than the patients who walk through our doors seeking life-saving cancer screenings, family planning, HIV testing and other services. At a time when women and families are struggling to afford health care, Congress should be doing everything it can to ensure that women and families have access to providers they trust, not cutting the very program that provides it."

A movement has been underfoot in Congress in recent weeks to cut funding for Planned Parenthood, particularly in the wake of a series of videos purporting to show staff members at some of the nonprofit's clinics on the East Coast saying they would provide abortions to underage girls caught up in sex trafficking.

The vigils at Planned Parenthood's clinics in Pasco and Kennewick on Monday were part of a nationwide effort to use the videos as a call for defunding the agency.

Jones said the actions shown in the videos amounted to aiding and abetting sex trafficking of minors.

"And the government is taking our tax dollars and paying for it," she said. "They are making me one of those people ... who is paying for something I don't agree with."

But Planned Parenthood officials said in a statement following release of the videos by anti-abortion group Live Action that the videos are doctored to add the words "sex work" or "sex worker" that never were part of the original conversations.

"The public should view any Live Action video with wide-eyed skepticism, as they do not accurately portray what happened," said Stuart Schear, spokesman for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

* Michelle Dupler: 509-582-1543; mdupler@tricityherald.com