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PAWTUCKET â€” About 20 pro-life supporters, many carrying handmade signs, attended a rally Thursday morning in front of the former Pawtucket office of Congressman David Cicilline to protest his vote against the Pence amendment that would have halted federal funding to Planned Parenthood.
The â€śWomen Speak Out: Defund Planned Parenthoodâ€ť bus tour is organized by the Susan B. Anthony List, a political action committee helping pro-life women gain election to Congress. The Pawtucket rally was part of an 11-stop, 7-state bus tour featuring keynote speakers Marilyn Musgrave, a former Congresswoman from Colorado and project director of the SBA List's â€śVotes Have Consequencesâ€ť movement, and Lila Rose, the founder of Live Action, an organization that made headlines with its undercover â€śstingâ€ť operations against Planned Parenthood.
Other speakers included Susan Yoshihara, vice president of the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute and R.I. Right to Life Education Trustee; Becky Miller, R.I. Right to Life Education Coordinator, Svetlana Goretaya, a Providence College student and Right to Life legislative intern, and Rachel Nguyen, executive director of the CareNet Pregnancy Center of R.I.
The purpose of the tour, according to the sponsors, was to thank legislators who voted for Rep. Mike Pence's (R-IN) amendment to ban funding for Planned Parenthood and to target those who voted against the measure.
The Pence amendment had been part of Continuing Resolution (H.R. 1) to fund the federal government through September. If made into law, it would have prevented Planned Parenthood and affiliated organizations from receiving federal funds for abortions and eliminated the Title X program which provides family planning and reproductive health services to low-income families.
On. Feb. 18, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to support the Pence amendment by 240 to 185. As of Wednesday, however, the issue became moot as the U.S. Senate essentially voted against the Pence amendment when it voted against the entire Continuing Resolution (H.R. 1).
Marilyn Musgrave cited 2009 statistics from Planned Parenthood in which the organization reportedly performed 322,278 abortions while making just 977 adoption referrals and providing just 7,021 women with prenatal care. She added that 98 percent of Planned Parenthood's services to pregnant women involves abortion, and said that the organization annually receives $360 million a year in taxpayer dollars. â€śWe do not want to partner with them. We do not want our tax dollars going to abortions,â€ť she stated, drawing applause.
The mother of four spoke of the recent joy she felt at viewing the ultrasound photo of her pregnant daughter, where â€śyou see a faithful little heart beating, beating, beating,â€ť and criticized Planned Parenthood for its abortion services. She further accused the organization of being â€śall too willing to aid and abet sex trafficking,â€ť referencing the undercover videos made by Lila Rose of Live Action.
Lila Rose spoke of her undercover operations in which some Planned Parenthood clinic workers are captured on film advising supposedly pregnant, underage girls accompanied by undercover actors posing as sex trade workers lie about their age in order to obtain abortions. â€śIs this what we want for women's health care...covering up sexual abuse?â€ť she asked.
Susan Yoshira stated that â€śall of us are reeling over the governor's new budget,â€ť and said that funding should be cut to programs like Planned Parenthood that are â€śhurting women or not providing health care.â€ť She added that most risks to a pregnant woman's life comes from not having adequate prenatal and delivery care while Planned Parenthood's philosophy is to reduce maternal deaths â€śby contraception and abortion.â€ť
Rachel Nguyen said it is a false claim by Planned Parenthood officials that its main mission is to provide access to family planning and other health-related services. She claimed that in Rhode Island, of the 12,700 women who qualified for the Title X family planning services, only 470 or 3.8 percent, utilized Planned Parenthood. She also faulted the organization for providing little or no information to pregnant women on alternatives such as adoption.
â€śThe biggest myth, most offensive myth, is that those who stand up for life are somehow not compassionate to women. There is nothing less compassionate than abortion,â€ť stated Nguyen.
Last week, Cicilline and his congressional staff moved into their new Pawtucket office, located on the other side of the city at 1070 Main St., and during Thursday's rally, the congressman himself was in Washington D.C.
Cicilline's Washington press spokeswoman, Jessica Kershaw, released a statement on his behalf saying that the congressman â€śbelieves that Planned Parenthood is an essential health care provider and any attempt to defund it puts at risk the lives of hundreds of women not only in Rhode Island but across the nation who seek not only reproductive but preventive health care services.â€ť
Kershaw added that Cicilline sees his priority right now as being jobs creation, and that cutting funding to Planned Parenthood â€śis not focusing on the economy or doing anything to get the economy out of its current recession.â€ť
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island held a rally of its own Thursday morning, which drew about 150 to its Providence clinic. Judy Tabar, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, said the purpose of the counter-rally was â€śto tell the truth about Planned Parenthood.â€ť This truth, she said, is that less than 10 percent of Planned Parenthood's services are in providing abortions. She said the figure of 98 percent quoted by Musgrave and others â€śis completely absurd.â€ť
â€śNinety percent of what we do is focused on prevention,â€ť Tabar stated. She said that in 2010, the Providence clinic served 6,500 women who came for a total of 10,000 visits (this figure includes both abortion and other services such as contraception, STP testing and cancer screenings).
Tabar also disputed the claim that Planned Parenthood does not provide information or referrals on adoption to pregnant women who come to the clinic. â€śAll of our staff are trained on providing all options to women, that includes anyone who is planning to keep their baby or a termination. Depending on what option a woman chooses, referrals will be given,â€ť said Tabar.
Tabar acknowledged the recent defeat of the Pence amendment with Wednesday's Senate vote, but said â€śthe battle is far from over.â€ť She said, however, that while Planned Parenthood does depend on a significant amount of federal funding, it also receives funding through private donations and other sources.