Drivers alternately honked in support and rolled down their windows to jeer as pro-life protesters gathered outside the Richfield Planned Parenthood clinic Feb. 11.
As a much larger demonstration took place at the Planned Parenthood Health Center in St. Paul, the Richfield demonstrators gathered on the sidewalk lining 66th Street, emboldened in their hopes that the federal government will revoke funding from Planned Parenthood.
While supporters of the organization point out the vast majority of services provided by Planned Parenthood are not abortions, some pro-life protesters in Richfield said they’d like to see the funding go to clinics that provide the same non-abortion health services as Planned Parenthood.
A group of pro-life advocates can typically be found on Wednesdays gathered outside the Richfield Planned Parenthood, sans protest signs, for prayer sessions, pro-life demonstrator Emily Koenig said.
Similar to the St. Paul demonstration, the pro-life protesters in Richfield had company. But while counter-protestors in St. Paul were outnumbered by Planned Parenthood supporters by thousands, as reported by the Star Tribune, there were two counter-protesters in Richfield, compared to the approximately 30 there to speak against Planned Parenthood.
“I’m actually alive because of Planned Parenthood,” said Beth Johnson-Knapp, 34, of Richfield, who along with her mother, held a sign stating her support for the organization.
St. Louis Park Resident Bonnie Knapp said she was a 22-year-old majoring in teaching at the University of Minnesota when she became pregnant with her daughter and weighed having an abortion. After counseling from Planned Parenthood, she decided to keep the baby, she said.
Had she not had the choices they laid out for her, “I would have rushed out and gotten an abortion,” Knapp said.
A pro-life demonstrator countered that story with another, saying she was encouraged to have an abortion when she learned her daughter had Turner’s Syndrome, a genetic defect that causes developmental abnormalities and infertility.
The protest last Saturday gave pro-life advocates a chance to make themselves heard after some said they felt shut out of the Women’s March that spread across the country last month.
“I feel like they hijacked the march,” protester Ronna Baca of Minneapolis said of the pro-choice marchers.
Even though she and husband Marco Baca differed from most of the Women’s March participants on one key issue, they understood the rationale for the massive rallies.
“All of us kind of cringed” at the comments about women made by President Donald Trump, Marco Baca said.
His pro-life stance is based on his Catholic faith, but he observed that someone’s position on abortion doesn’t have to have anything to do with religion, pointing to the existence of pro-life atheist groups.
“You don’t have to be a religious person to believe it’s a human being,” Marco Baca said.
Some of the pro-life protesters conversed with the counter-protesters, and words got heated as a protest leader tried separate the sides. But Bonnie Knapp was able to have an extended conversation with pro-life demonstrator Joel Neisen of Burnsville.
At one point, after they were done talking, Knapp sneezed. When Neisen turned around to say, “God bless you,” she thanked him for the civility.
“It’s the Christian way,” Neisen responded.
Contact Andrew Wig at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @RISunCurrent.
This article was updated from a previous version, which incorrectly stated that a group of pro-life advocates meet for prayer outside the Richfield Planned Parenthood on Sundays. In fact, they meet on Wednesdays.