At times, the chants and voices from two sides of a controversial issue overpowered each other Saturday morning outside Overland Park’s Planned Parenthood clinic.
On one side, a man surrounded by demonstrators holding up “Pro-life” signs denounced abortion over a loud speaker and insisted it wasn’t a “right, but a wrong.” On the other, hundreds of supporters of Planned Parenthood chanted their support for women and declared that they wouldn’t back down.
“One, 2, 3, 4, we won’t take it anymore,” called out men and women waving signs along Roe Avenue. “Five, 6, 7, 8, separate the church and state.”
The event Saturday morning aimed at giving Planned Parenthood supporters the opportunity to stand up for the clinic and oppose efforts by the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding.
The goal for Planned Parenthood was to show the public, supporters and patients that the organization would continue the battle to keep serving Medicaid patients, said Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains. The Overland Park rally was part of a nationwide event.
“Our opposition believes that the way to shut down abortion services is to shut down Planned Parenthood’s ability to provide broad comprehensive sexual and reproductive healthcare to women and families across the states of Kansas and Missouri,” McQuade said. “We are here to tell them that for over 40 years we have been a qualified Medicaid provider and we will fight them to the end for the privilege of providing those services to our patients.”
Anti-abortion protesters from Kansans for Life — which held their annual Valentine Banquet Tuesday evening — came out in hefty numbers and carried signs and prayed out loud during the rally. Stephanie Kupper, of Overland Park, hung a rosary in her left hand as she led a small group in prayer. “Hail Mary, full of grace...”
Alicia Voorhies held her “I am the Pro-Life generation” sign high, standing next to a woman in pink holding her sign — “Don’t Tread on My Uterus” — even higher. Voorhies said she regularly protests outside the Overland Park Planned Parenthood and wanted to make sure she was there Saturday.
“I would love to see money given to Planned Parenthood given to health care facilities that provide other alternatives to abortion,” Voorhies said.
Before Planned Parenthood supporters fanned out Saturday, a coordinator urged them to be peaceful.
“The opposition can get very nasty,” said Suzanne Wheeler, volunteer coordinator for Planned Parenthood Great Plains. “They will call you names, do everything to get you to react. We ask that you take the high ground. Don’t react.”
After anti-abortion groups announced recently that they would hold protests to demand the defunding of Planned Parenthood, many on the other side of the debate reached out asking what they could do.
“We have gotten calls, people have reached out online,” said Dilara Yilmaz, digital strategy and data manager for Planned Parenthood Great Plains. “We were completely overwhelmed from the response.”
Supporters like Jane Quinn and Erin Morgan said they knew they had to show up for Planned Parenthood.
“We need to stand up to anyone who takes away the rights of women,” said Quinn, of Lee’s Summit. “To take away their right to make choices with their body is a crime.”
Quinn and Morgan, of Blue Springs, said in their lifetimes they’ve seen so much progress in the way of women’s rights. Now, they said, they’re worried of what will happen.
“The thought of going back is frightening and appalling,” Quinn said.